The Insider

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."

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The statement of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as released by the Pentagon:

I fully support the program decisions Secretary Gates has laid out today. None of them was easy to make. All of them are vital to the future.

These decisions put our people first. I have said and remain convinced the best way to guarantee our future is to support our troops and their families. It is the "recruit" and "retain" choices of American families that will make or break the all volunteer force. I could not agree more strongly with him making this his top priority.

The Secretary also took pains to shape that force by seeking better balance. If adopted in the President’s budget and passed into law, his recommendations will improve critical "enablers," such as aviation, special forces, cyber operations, civil affairs, intelligence analysis, unmanned aerial vehicles, MRAPs, and language skills. These are the capabilities we desperately need for the wars we are fighting and the ones we are likely to fight in years to come.

Some will argue he is tilting dangerously away from conventional capabilities. He is not. His decisions with respect to missile defense, tactical aviation, shipbuilding, Army modernization, ISR, and communications bear witness to his commitment to preserving our traditional strengths. In truth, he is evening out what has been in this time of war a fairly lop-sided approach to defense acquisition.

If we are what we buy, one might conclude we have become the world’s finest counter-insurgency force by sheer will alone. We simply must invest more aggressively in this vital mission.

Our ground forces remain our center of gravity in the current fight. The Secretary has protected the size of those forces. By adjusting active Army BCT growth to 45, he has ensured our ability to impact the fight sooner, increase dwell time, and reduce overall demand on equipment. This commitment will provide better manned units and end stop-loss. He has also provided for a healthy and attainable Army modernization program.

In all this, Secretary Gates is working hard to fix a flawed procurement process. Programs that aren’t performing well are getting the scrutiny they deserve. The acquisition workforce is getting the manpower and expertise it merits. And a struggling industrial base is getting the support and the oversight it warrants. More critically, we -- the military leadership of the nation -- are getting the top-down guidance we need to develop the right warfighting capabilities.

The Secretary presided over a comprehensive and collaborative process to arrive at his decisions. Every Service Chief and Combatant Commander had a voice, and every one of them used it. I know I speak for all of them when I say we are prepared to execute each and every one of these recommendations.

By Dan Dupont
April 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

News flash: Budget details coming on Monday, from the podium at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Gates will brief reporters.

Our story coming soon.

By John Liang
April 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With speculation over which defense programs will suffer the budget ax reaching a fever pitch just days before Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to brief Congress on those cuts, the developer of the Airborne Laser -- one of the programs with a bulls-eye on it -- today continued its full-court-press to sway public opinion on the effort, touting the ancillary benefits from that multiyear, multibillion-dollar program.

"Continued Airborne Laser development can protect a very perishable industrial base," one that has also helped develop very advanced optics that could be used in other laser projects, Boeing Vice President and General Manager of Missile Defense Systems Greg Hyslop told a Capitol Hill audience this morning.

Hyslop, who spoke at a Marshall Institute-sponsored event, also touted other possible missions for ABL above and beyond shooting down ballistic missiles in their boost phase, like cruise missile defense or counter-air defense.

Inside the Air Force cited Boeing officials last month warning that roughly 1,000 jobs -- and the United States' edge in laser technology -- are at risk if the ABL program is canceled.

An operational fleet of Airborne Laser aircraft is still years -- possibly decades -- away, and Boeing estimates that the per-plane cost could be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. The Air Force predicts that a seven-aircraft fleet would be needed to successfully defend the United States from possible missile attacks.

As such, ABL has been on the table as one program that could be vulnerable in budget cuts predicted for the fiscal year 2010 defense budget.

. . . ((L))awmakers arguing for the cancellation of the program noted ABL’s schedule delays and cost increases. Other congressmen fighting for the program wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates pleading for the continuation of the laser’s development and did so because of their concerns of reports of the project’s possible termination.

But ABL wasn't the only boost-phase missile defense program being touted this morning. Michael Booen, Raytheon's vice president of advanced missile defense systems, spoke about his company's nascent effort to build an air-launched missile to shoot down ballistic missiles early in flight.

The proposed Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) is a two-stage missile with an infrared seeker that is designed to intercept short- and medium-range missiles in their boost phase. It is essentially an upgraded Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), which, Raytheon officials say, means that any aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying AMRAAM can carry NCADE.

The Missile Defense Agency awarded Raytheon a $10 million contract last year to continue research-and-development work on NCADE.

Booen said this morning that the interceptors could be built for less than $1 million apiece.