The new Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, has struck a conciliatory tone in recent public statements. He has pledged to improve communication, particularly with Capitol Hill and stressed the importance of unity within the service. “I have trouble seeing lines between components of services, because I believe on the air side, we have an Air Force—it has three components, but we all are working together,” Welsh said at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States. “We have to, or we can't be successful.”
Internally, Obama's missile defense plan is under pressure. Since taking office, he has shifted the emphasis of the Missile Defense Agency from national missile defense to theater missile defense, implementing a phased adaptive approach (PAA) in Europe. For now, that means using SM-3 Block IA missiles on Aegis cruisers. But the latter phases of the administration's plan include a land-based presence in Poland and Romania.
A recent National Research Council report questions the final phase of the administration's long-term plan to protect the U.S. from Iranian missile attacks. “Phase IV of the European PAA may not be the best way to improve U.S. homeland defense,” says the report. “The speed of the Phase IV interceptor will need to be greater than can be achieved with a 21-in. missile to avoid being overflown by lofted ICBM trajectories from Iran if the interceptor is based in Northern Europe (Poland).” The study's co-chairs recommend fixes to the current GMD system as an alternative. That will require additional money—and, as analysts point out, that will be difficult to come by.
“There are some really hard fiscal issues they're going to have to deal with. And then defense is going to force some really hard strategic choices,” says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
And this means that whoever is elected will have to deal with the next crop of lawmakers bound for Washington in January. “Either president, even within his own plan, is going to need more money to accomplish it than currently projected,” says O'Hanlon. “They're going to need to come back to Congress and ask for more money, and that's going to be complicated in a world where we could have a binding long-term budget agreement.”
With the candidates' differences on everything from investment in missile defense to organized labor and space platforms, the 2012 residential election could produce very different outcomes for the A&D industry. For more details on where Obama and Romney stand on A&D issues, check out the digital edition of AW&ST on leading tablets and smartphones, or go to AviationWeek.com/campaign2012