The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, has released a statement about the fiscal year 2010 budget decisions rolled out today by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“The recommendations made today by Secretary Gates represent an important first step in balancing the Department’s wants with our nation’s needs," he said in a statement e-mailed to reporters by a spokesman. The words "first step" were in bold, a not-so-subtle reference the role Congress will play as it debates the proposals.

"For far too long, the Defense Department has failed to address these challenges, and I applaud the Secretary for conducting this comprehensive review," Murtha continued. “However, the Committee will carefully review the Department’s recommendations in the context of current and future threats when we receive the detailed fiscal year 2010 budget request.”

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This time from Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information:

Just as it did the press, Secretary of Defense Gates decisions on hardware will completely preoccupy Congress. A major food fight is sure to break out over the end of F-22 production at 187 very expensive, not particularly impressive fighters, no new presidential or search and rescue helicopters (for now), no more C-17s, and a very few other clean cut terminations.

While Washington DC hisses and spits over the secretary’s hardware recommendations, it is probably more important to ask, what has changed, and if anything has, where are we now going?

It does not appear that the basic DOD budget has changed; this set of decisions may be budget neutral, or it may even hold in its future expanded net spending requirements.

We have not changed an anticipation to prepare for occupations in foreign lands (the advocates call it “counter-insurgency”), or to continue to spend most of our defense budget on forms of conventional warfare most reminiscent of the mid twentieth century. To fight the indistinct, unspecified conflicts we may have to face in the foreseeable future, what has changed? The strategy? The shrinkage of the hardware inventory and its age? While many decisions were made, the Pentagon-ship of state appears to be very much on the same basic course.

For the defense Department’s broken acquisition system, the Secretary’s endorsement of the Levin – McCain “procurement reform” bill (now watered down at the Defense Department’s urging) means that business as usual is very alive and well. There will be some new bottles for some very old wine, but the bitterness of the taste will still be around as we rush to build untested aircraft (e.g. F-35), endorse problematic, unaffordable ship designs (e.g. LCS), and spend generously to defend against less, not more likely, threats (e.g. missile defense).

For one set of decisions, even if they are unspectacular, Secretary Gates deserves much good credit. He made people his first priority. Hopefully, that was not just rhetorical. The emphasis he put on medical research, caring for the wounded, and family support are all to be greatly commended. I fear, however, that Congress will do little more on this prime issue than simply throw money – as it has in the past.

By Dan Dupont
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As budget day dawns, it's worth remembering what Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a couple of weeks back of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plans to unveil defense spending changes himself -- before they even get to the White House:

One benefit, according to Levin, is the recommendations are usually leaked once they reach the Office of Management and Budget: “So you can avoid the leakage by simply saying, 'This is what I am recommending to the president,'” the Michigan Democrat said.

An early release would also ensure that most of the blowback from the major program cuts expected in the FY-10 proposal would fall mostly on the Pentagon and not the administration. “Instead of having the president or the president's budget take the heat, ((this)) is kind of a heat shield,” Levin said. “That does not mean OMB or the president will not get it, they ((will)) get less of it.”

It's also worth noting that the president is thousands of miles away today as his Republican defense secretary unveils what promises to be a controversial package of proposals -- putting Republicans on the Hill in the position of taking on a fellow GOPer they have spent the last two-plus years praising.

We will, of course, be following it all very closely today, on the site and right here on Defense: Next. Stay tuned.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

House Republicans today foreshadowed a debate in Congress about a fundamental assumption underlying the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 spending proposal -- that Iraq- and Afghanistan-like missions will make up a significant chunk of future U.S. military engagements.

"Secretary Gates' statement includes significant programmatic decisions that seem to be based on assumptions about the current security environment," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McHugh (R-NY) wrote in a statement this afternoon. "The Congress needs to ensure it understands and agrees with these assumptions about the threats we face before we can endorse decisions on the capabilities our military does and does not require."

In his press conference today, Gates described the 2008 National Defense Strategy as a key document from which the newly announced program decisions were derived. Gates crafted the document last summer, when a Republican president was still in office.

President Obama has yet to issue a formal national security strategy document.

More from McHugh:

"Republicans appreciate Secretary Gates’ effort to shape the Department of Defense so that we more effectively fight the wars our troops are engaged in today; however, we are concerned about the tradeoffs involved in re-balancing the Department. It remains the Congress’ responsibility to provide for the common defense -- continued delays in the release of the defense budget details hinders our ability to carry out our constitutional duty.

((. . .))

“Today’s announcement that the Department will shift enduring costs previously included in war time supplemental spending bills into the base budget is something we support, but not without a commensurate increase in top line spending.  If implemented, this proposal will be tantamount to an $8 billion cut in defense spending.

“Additionally, cutting missile defense spending and focusing missile defense programs to a ballistic missile’s terminal phase places unnecessary risk to the homeland. Just a day after North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile the Secretary missed an opportunity to re-commit to investment in missile defense capabilities.


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today he "strongly" supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to restructure several major defense programs.

"It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow,” McCain said in a statement issued by his office. “Today’s announcement is a major step in the right direction. I believe Secretary Gates’ decision is key to ensuring that the defense establishment closes the gap between the way it supports current operations and the way it prepares for future conventional threats."

McCain also said he greatly appreciates that Gates "continues to place the highest priority on supporting the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

-- Chris Castelli

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon leaders are not requesting fiscal year 2010 money for the Counterintelligence Field Activity today, thus bringing to a close an almost year-long process to close the controversial office and transfer its responsibilities to the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to a defense official.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed CIFA's dismantling last spring, acting on a recommendation from James Clapper, the under secretary of defense for intelligence.

It took defense officials two attempts to transfer CIFA's remaining funds to DIA -- one last summer, and one early this year. The latter transfer, it turned out, happened because lawmakers gave the Rumsfeld-era shop $200 million for FY-09 in last fall's omnibus spending package.

Of course, all counterintelligence funding matters are kept secret, which means specific funding figures concerning the CIFA-to-DIA transfer are unlikely to come up when Defense Secretary Robert Gates briefs details of the FY-10 defense budget request to reporter's today. Or ever, for that matter.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says Defense Secretary Robert Gates will reveal "very detailed" information about his budget decisions at today's 1:30 p.m. press briefing.

"During this press conference he will read a lengthy statement explaining each of his decisions and the strategic rationale behind them and then he will take questions," Morrell told us.

Stay tuned.

By Jason Sherman
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is briefing service secretaries and service chiefs this morning on the final shape of the fiscal year 2010 budget request, according to defense officials. Pentagon sources say that late last week a "multi-page" memo was circulating that detailed cuts or restructuring to as many as 55 programs; how many of those changes will be included in the final revision of the FY-10 budget request will be revealed in a press conference this afternoon.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Live-blogging the big press conference. . . .

* Gates opens by noting "unorthodox" approach -- pointedly noting it was approved by President Obama.

* "These recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business."

* Cumulative result of Gates' 30 years in the national security arena.

* Consulted closely with president.

* Chairman and vice chairman "in complete accord" with these recommendations.

* Would have made almost all of the recommendations regardless of the budget situation.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

First, people:

* Properly fund the growth of the military. Will require nearly $11 billion increase above FY-09 level.

* Increase medical research, health care and child care -- but move away from funding these areas through supplemental appropriations. An increase of $13 billion in base budget over last year.

* Needs an "institutional home" for the warfighter. FY-10 budget to be used to increase intelligence, surveillance and recon spending by $2 billion: 50 Predator and Reaper unmanned systems now permanently funded in base budget.

* Increase manned ISR activities, including turbo-props used as part of Task Force ODIN. Research into new platforms.

* $500 million over last year in base budget to sustain and bolster helicopters. Shortages of maintenance crews and pilots noted; training and recruiting needed.

* Increase global partnership activities by $500 million

* Grow special ops personnel by more than 2,800, and buy more special forces-optimized lift and refueling aircraft.

* Increase LCS buys from two to three ships in FY-10; goal is to buy 55 total.

* Four Joint High-Speed Vessels, up from two.

* Stop Army BCTs at 48. Lower the risk of hollowing the force.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* New or additional investments in key areas including a fifth-generation tactical fighter capability -- increasing the buy of the F-35 from 14 in '09 to 30 in FY-10: $6.8 billion to $11.2 billion. 513 over the FYDP, 2,443 total.

* 31 F/A-18s in FY-10.

* Retire more older aircraft.

* End production of the F-22A with only four requested in FY-09.

* $700 million for most capable theater missile defense systems: Navy Standard Missile and THAAD systems.

* More Aegis ship funding.

* More cyber experts: from 80 students to more than 200.

* Solicit new tanker bids this summer.

* Will not pursue follow-on Air Force bomber until better understanding the need.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Shift carriers to five-year build cycle, meaning 10 carriers after 2040

* Delay next-gen cruiser program

* Delay amphib ship and seabasing efforts to FY-11 to assess cost and needs

* Airlift: Complete C-17 build this year

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Need for acquisition and contracting reform and better oversight

* Welcomes Levin-McCain bill on acquisition reform

* Increase the size of acquisition workforce -- hiring 9,000 more professionals by 2015, with 4,000+ in FY-10; also converting many contractor slots

* Greater funding flexibility needed.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM



* TSAT; two more AEHF instead

* Refocus on rogue state threat in missile defense arena; no more interceptors in Alaska; will fund robust R&D

* Cancel second ABL prototype aircraft; keep existing prototype and shift to R&D-only program

* Multiple Kill Vehicle program

* MDA to be reduced $1.4 billion

* Include funds to buy two Navy destroyers in FY-10; restart DDG-51; DDG-1000 to end with third ship if plans work out; if not DOD likely will build only a single prototype DDG-1000

* Significantly restructure FCS; retain and accelerate initial spin-out to all combat brigades. However, FCS vehicle design strategy poses too many questions. Does not adequately reflect lessons learned in recent operations. Does not include a role for MRAPs. Troubled by the terms of the contract, particularly its "unattractive" fee structure. Must have more confidence in program strategy and requirements. Accordingly: Cancel the vehicle component of FCS, and relaunch the Army's "vehicle modernization program" competitively.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Asked about congressional reaction, Gates notes decisions will be controversial, says he hopes Congress will "rise above parochial interests" and consider the best interests of the nation.

* Gates says he did not take political interests into account in making decisions. Hopes Obama will approve and Congress will support "as much of it as possible."

* Decisions "emanate directly from the National Defense Strategy," Gates says -- strong analytical base.

* Programs he recommends delaying will be examined in the QDR. A list of "probably 10 or a dozen or more" issues to be examined in the QDR that came out of the exercise.

* F-22A decision: "Not a close call," Gates says. "We have fulfilled the program -- it's not like we're killing the F-22."

* "The military advice that I got was that there is no military requirement for F-22s" beyond current level -- including advice from the Air Force.

* More money for rotorcraft: "most focused" on "the need for more helicopters." In analysis noted principal shortfall was in crews, not airframes. Virtually all of the additional money going to accelerate the training of crews and pilots.

* "There needs to be a new presidential helicopter." Still good service life in current fleet and "we have time to do this." Will review requirements after FY-10 budget is submitted.

* Canceling CSAR-X, but will look at whether there is a requirement for a specialized search-and-rescue helicopter.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Gates concerned about jobs to be lost by cancellations but notes increases also part of the plan. Direct employment on the F-22 program about 22,000 this year, to decline to 13,000 in FY-11 as last aircraft rolls off the line. But, F-35 already employs 30,000+, to go to 82,000 in FY-11. Decisions "do a pretty good job of taking care of the industrial base there."

"We cannot be oblivious to the consequences of these decisions," he says, but national security interests trump.

* Irregular warfare constituency to have "a seat at the table" for the first time.

* Missile defense: Cartwright says SM-3 and THAAD needed; cites North Korea launch as proof. For fourth site of ground-based interceptor -- sufficient funds in FY-09 to carry forward as QDR is conducted and negotiations continue with European countries.

* KEI program: Cartwright says great utility in boost-phase systems. Need more analysis."What do we need in the boost phase?"

* Refueling tankers: Gates has talked with Murtha on split-buy strategy. "I still believe that it is not the best deal for the taxpayer to go with a split buy."