Defense Secretary Robert Gates takes the podium at 1330 DC time today, to announce what's expected to be the most important set of defense program cuts in decades. Webcast will be here.
Without trying to pretend we know who will be rejoicing and who will be crying into their martinis when Happy Hour draws a veil over the the ravaged streets of Crystal City, here are some of the key points everyone will be listening for.
F-22: Gates could cut the program off; approve 20 more aircraft, but no more than that; or clear the next 20 and let the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) decide on another 20+, but allow no more after that.
F-35: Will not be cut except possibly in total numbers; Gates may even recommend acceleration of early production, despite what the GAO says. However, the F136 alternate engine may be killed again, adding to the total savings to be claimed today.
Future Combat System: It's not whether Gates will propose restructuring and delays, but how much.
Tankers: Will Gates endorse Congress's proposed split buy?
Transformation Satellite (TSAT): Even if Gates takes an entrenching tool to its zombie brain, the program will shamble on under one identity or another.
Carriers: Gates could endorse a cut in air wing numbers, to ten or even nine - but the latter will lead to a congressional war with the homeports that will make Stalingrad look like the Teddy-Bears' Picnic.
DDG-1000: Gates could try to cancel the whole program, picking a fight with ship-building states, or axe the third ship in the class. We'll see today whether he wants to deal with the follow-on CG-X anti-missile cruiser, or defer it to the QDR.
LCS: This program is already generating bad news for the Pentagon, so Gates may announce restructuring to a greater or lesser degree. The question is how: the trimaran General Dynamics ship is late, but may yet prove better than Lockheed Martin's monohull.
VH-71: In splatter-movie terms, VH-71 today is the first cheerleader who says "you guys stay here, I'll check the basement."
Missile defense: Boeing's Airborne Laser team and Northrop Grumman's Kinetic Energy Interceptor group will be biting their nails. However, after North Korea's missile test, this area may be safer than it was on Friday.
Stay tuned for updates.