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  • New Military Threats Include Less Money and Fewer Airplanes
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 4:13 PM on Oct 14, 2010

    Despite being tactful, the message from U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz is that the spending topline will flatten and actual buying power will drop for both serving personnel and retirees.

    The list of potential victims of decreased defense funding is long. Service members and military retirees will likely have to pay a larger portion of medical cost, more bases will have to be closed, older aircraft will have to be modernized to serve longer -- because there will be too few new aircraft -- and Air Force leaders still have not convinced its civilian chiefs that they have a good, affordable plan for a new bomber that has direct value to all the services.

    There’s also an operational impact that is being compounded by the proliferation of advanced technologies from air-defense systems to cyberattacks.

    In fact, Schwartz describes the number of new contingencies the service has to prepare for is “infinite,” while the assets to address them, including aircraft, diminish. He also told members of the National Press Club that despite recent digital attacks on Iran, Syria, Georgia, Estonia – and daily sallies against the Pentagon
    cyberwarfare for the military won’t be an offensive capability until the boundaries of the new dimension of warfare are resolved at the higher national and international levels. It is an “immature area [but] clearly a growth industry,” he says.

    The defense budget is already being touted as the source for cuts of $1 trillion (to reduce the Federal deficit and national debt) over the next 10 years by a faction of Representatives and Senators, led by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The group of about 50 members of Congress asks that military spending be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny that non-military spending will receive. Further, they contend, in a Wednesday statement, that significant cuts to defense spending are necessary and can be made in a way that will not endanger national security.

    A factor that adds confusion to defense planning is the even-faster emergence of threats and requirements as well as the need to plan for higher-end, large-scale conflicts which will demand a “different mix of response” than irregular warfare, Schwartz says.

    The F-35 program is a poster child for the conflicting needs, requirements and financial constraints of the new budgetary environment.

    The program could benefit from a multi-year contract, but only if there is a long-term requirement for the aircraft and there is budget stability, Schwartz says. There also could be room for a competing engine design for the Joint Strike Fighter if Rolls-Royce and General Electric would pay more of the $1.9 billion development cost, he says. Moreover, a competing engine could produce long-term savings, but only if the short-term, up-front costs are more affordable.

    The Air Force’s financial strategy will have to deal with the development of advanced radars that are chipping away at the invisibility of stealth design like the F-35, F-22 and B-2. Advanced, long-range, electronic attack and computer invasion capabilities will be required to maintain the Air Force’s ability to penetrate the latest air defenses.

    Part of the vast problems the military will face, Schwartz contends, will be resolved by the new joint service air-sea plan that will tightly integrate the capabilities of the Air Force and Navy to provide efficiencies in rapid deployment, cut into duplication of missions, combine acquisition and embrace interoperability – all while improving expeditionary reach and the ability to “create effects anywhere,” he says.

    An example of the concept is using the F/A-18G Growler to support electronic warfare and electronic attack for both the Air Force and Navy instead of the USAF launching its own standoff jamming aircraft program. An offshoot of that effort – the Navy’s nascent Next Generation Jammer program – could operationalize airborne electronic attack for both services first through the EA-18G program and then the F-35. Adjunct capabilities -- such as stand-off electronic attack missiles and bombs, directed energy weapons and cyberinvasion -- could produce offensive non-kinetic elements once the rules of engagement for such weapons are codified.

    Tags: ar99, USAF, budget, Schwartz

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