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A few items jump out from today's strategic review announcement. I was suprised and gratified by the fact that the Long Range Strike-Bomber project is not only unscathed but was singled out as a specific program to be sustained, with a Presidential imprimatur to boot. That is part of a theme: The review, so far, eschews the "golden ratio" that states that all forces share cuts in equal proportion to their budgets. The winding-down of land forces is a key to that effort -- as is a shift towards smaller forces: "Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives."Goodbye air-sea battle, hello Joint Operational Access Concept. JOAC sounds less like a conspiracy between the blue-water navy and the air force. Or someone realized the acronym for Air Sea Battle Office is the same as the court order they slap in you in the UK if you get drunk, key cars and break windows. LRS-B and its murkily defined familiars -- penetrating ISR and electronic attack vehicles -- are all part of JOAC. Reuters reports that the Pentagon will slide 120 JSFs out of the FY2013-17 buy years. This matches the Quick Look Review team's recommendation to hold off on rate increases until testing has reduced the risk of expensive-to-fix problems showing up. However, the cuts raise concerns in the UK about the cost and timing of the F-35C version, according to UK secretary of defense Philip Hammond -- whose first official visit to DC coincided with the cuts."We're already under some pressure from public opinion in the UK over the fact that we are going to have built and launched carriers some years before we have aircraft to fly off them," Hammond told an Atlantic Council forum. "It's really a caricaturist's dream, isn't it? So the prospect of further delays to the carrier variant would be of concern to us."Pentagon critic Winslow Wheeler note that "ISR, special forces, counter terrorism, anti-weapons of mass destruction programs, cyber warfare, science & technology are all declared winners." Pollyanna to the end, Wheeler adds: "Watch as bureaucrats in the Pentagon and porkers in Congress attempt to redefine their favorite programs as fitting into one, or more, of those categories." We'll see more details as the real budget proposals emerge, but for now the verdict has to be: Not as bad as it might have been.
ar99, bomber, jsf, review, panetta
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