Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes the global financial crisis will force the Pentagon to “squeeze” its budget. In addition, the Pentagon's No. 1 officer passed up an opportunity during yesterday's press conference to support the Air Force's bid to buy additional F-22A fighters.
ADM. MULLEN: I think it's very clear from, obviously, President- elect Obama's public statements, also Secretary Gates, to look at -- to take a very, very intense, focused, comprehensive view at what we're buying -- and from that perspective, I think that's very healthy.
And I say that -- also, I'm obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got in so many -- in so many of our programs. And we are going to have to get a grip on that, or we will not be able to buy them. It's very clear to me. We won't be able to buy them, and we won't be able -- or we won't be able to buy them in the quantity we need.
I am -- I'm very concerned about the global financial crisis and its impact globally on security. I think it will impact on security over a period of time, and we have to recognize that. I think it's important for all of us in the Defense Department to squeeze our budgets, to draw in where we can, and for leaders to commit to that and certainly recognize that there are challenges out there which we'll continue to have to resource.
Q: Do you think, for instance, of the biggest military needs -- say the F-22, the most expensive fighter plane ever made?
ADM. MULLEN: There's been an awful lot of discussion about that. It's not a matter of do we need it.... We have it. It's a question of how many do we need for the future. And Secretary Gates has been pretty clear. This administration has been very clear about where it's been, where he is, and certainly has, you know, left it open to see what the additional numbers should be. The chief of staff of the Air Force has talked about a number that is another -- what? -- 50 or so more than the 183 right now.
So I think we're going to -- we're going to work our way through that. I do -- I am concerned that it is such an expensive system.
I think it is -- in the aviation world, our future is in the Joint Strike Fighter, but the Joint Strike Fighter is a new system. New systems usually struggle, you know, meeting exact deadlines. And I think it's very important we have capability to bridge to that system with respect to the broad range of capabilities for the country.