DoD Cutting Major Programs in Restructuring

The Defense Department is finally getting somewhat serious about COIN and other forms of nontraditional warfare, signaling major priority shifts with its new budget proposal.

Gen. George W. Casey last year displayed a vehicle from the Army's Future Combat Systems program, which is expected to be heavily cut. Gen. George W. Casey last year displayed a vehicle from the Army's Future Combat Systems program, which is expected to be heavily cut. (By Haraz N. Ghanbari -- Associated Press)

Gen. George W. Casey last year displayed a vehicle from the Army's Future Combat Systems program, which is expected to be heavily cut. (By Haraz N. Ghanbari -- Associated Press)

Gates’s aides say his plan would boost spending for some programs and take large whacks at others, including some with powerful constituencies on Capitol Hill and among influential contractors, making his announcement more of an opening bid than a decisive end to weeks of sometimes acrimonious internal Pentagon debate.

Among the programs expected to be heavily cut is the Army’s Future Combat Systems, a network of vehicles linked by high-tech communications that has been plagued by technical troubles and delays; with a price tag exceeding $150 billion, it is now one of the most costly military efforts.

Gates also is considering cutting a new $20 billion communications satellite program and reducing the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10, and he plans to eliminate elements of the decades-old missile defense effort that are over budget or considered ineffective, according to industry and administration sources.

[…]

Gates has signaled for months that the Pentagon’s resources are misallocated, but his embrace of the budget increase proposed by President Obama represents an abrupt turnaround. Late in the Bush administration, he blessed a military-service-driven budget proposal for 2010 packed with $60 billion in spending beyond what the Pentagon had earlier recommended. Much of the added funds would have accelerated the production of existing ships, airplanes, Army vehicles and missile defenses.

My graduate mentor, Don Snow, drummed into me that “policy is what gets funded.”  Presidents and cabinet secretaries frequently announce priorities that people mistake for policy but, unless said priorities are reflected in the budget, they’re just talk.

This is definitely a move in the right direction although, frankly, not nearly enough of one.  Given that this is an opening bid in what is likely to be a very contentious debate, one would think much more drastic reforms would have been warranted.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell cited the current financial crisis as a rationale for these cuts.  The problem, however, is that Congressmen whose districts make these systems could reasonably argue that this is precisely the sort of stimulus the economy needs right now.  It’s going to be very difficult to get these cuts through, especially with the sunk costs in FCS.

Even beyond the tactics of negotiating this through Congress, the proposed moves are a baby step. Cutting FCS makes sense, certainly, but only mothballing only one carrier group?  There are those who argue that carriers have been outmoded since roughly the Battle of Midway.  Do we really need 10 of them?

UPDATE: The above notwithstanding, Andrew Exum “has never been so excited about a freaking budget.”

FILED UNDER: Congress, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Do we really need 10 of them?

    The first thing Bill Clinton did on arrival was to cut defense spending. He then proceeded to send the military on more missions that any president had ever done. As I recall, Jimmy Carter tried cutting spending on military, as well. The result was a disaster for both the military and for foreign policy. Does the name Iran ring any bells to anyone?

    So you will forgive me, James, if I have my doubts about any Democrat-Driven Military spending cuts. History shows us that their effectiveness has been less than optimal, and the social programs they end up trying to spend the money on, even more so.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Bit:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see more military adventures; they’re a bipartisan trend over the last 20 years. But aircraft carriers are unlikely to play such a large role that 10 of them will be insufficient to the task.

  3. Bithead says:

    You’d better hope we’re only dealing with one theater, then.

  4. sam says:

    As I recall, Jimmy Carter tried cutting spending on military, as well. The result was a disaster for both the military and for foreign policy. Does the name Iran ring any bells to anyone?

    I’m pretty sure any cuts in defense spending had little to do with the failure of the Iranian hostage rescue mission, if that was what you were referring to. Moreover, no matter what the state of the US armed forces, I doubt the Iranians would have been deterred from taking over the embassy. I suppose, following your logic, 9/11 occurred because the perps perceived our armed forces to be weakened (and this on Bush’s watch). But does anyone believe this? Does anyone believe that the state of our armed forces entered the terrorist caculus at all? If anything, they utterly failed to take into account our ability and will to strike back at them.

  5. Steve C. says:

    1. Obama is going to save 40 billion dollars through unspecified “procurement reforms”. Tell me another Santa.

    2. Aircraft carriers are arguably the most important strategic (and diplomatic) lever we have. Who else has the ability to project power around the globe at this level? Given the unsettled nature of the international environment, we should be fielding more carriers. They are the Swiss Army knives of military power projection.

    3. The politicians have yet to address the fundamental failing of our current dilemma. Too few soldiers and Marines. An Army with 60% of the Cold War end strength performing at OPTEMPO that was not anticipated 20 years ago. If Obama and Gates were canceling programs to expand ground forces by 100K, I’d be all for that. Instead what we get is cuts of dubious impact to align with some ceiling imposed by the White House.

    4. Yes, everyone has to live with some sort of imposed limit on spending. But I for one would like to see the national strategy that informs the budget decisions. As usual, I think we will get budget decisions that drive strategy not the reverse.

    5. The President will propose and Congress will dispose. The Pentagon will be force fed funding for weapons systems at the expense of people and OMA. Soldiers are a talking point, not a constituency. Bases, weapons and production lines have voters in concentrated areas. Ergo, they are constituencies.

  6. Bithead says:

    I’m pretty sure any cuts in defense spending had little to do with the failure of the Iranian hostage rescue mission, if that was what you were referring to.

    I wasn’t specifically referring to that, no, though it does strike me that the mission wouldn’t have been necessary absent the lower presence of our military in the region because of the cuts he inflicted on us.

    Moreover, no matter what the state of the US armed forces, I doubt the Iranians would have been deterred from taking over the embassy.

    You make it sound like it was a spur the moment thing, it driven by anger against the U.S.. I tell you a politically motivated and premeditated.

    Does anyone believe that the state of our armed forces entered the terrorist caculus at all?

    Without any question whatsoever. Predators attack at signs of weakness. Whatever else terrorists may be categorized as, it’s that.

  7. sam says:

    An Army with 60% of the Cold War end strength performing at OPTEMPO that was not anticipated 20 years ago.

    That’s certainly true enough, but had we not hared off into Iraq and instead concentrated only on Afghanistan, I don’t think the Army and Marines would be feeling the strain they now are.

  8. Bithead says:

    So the Islamist terrorists being able to use Iraq as a base against our Afghan ops, wouldn’t have made things just as complicated? Sorry, no sale.

  9. sam says:

    So the Islamist terrorists being able to use Iraq as a base against our Afghan ops, wouldn’t have made things just as complicated? Sorry, no sale

    The question concerned the strain on the Army and Marines. I hold that if our effort had been confined to Afghanistan, the strain on our ground forces would not be nearly as great as it is now. It takes fewer troops to fight one war than it does to fight two.

  10. So the Islamist terrorists being able to use Iraq as a base against our Afghan ops, wouldn’t have made things just as complicated? Sorry, no sale.

    You do realize that Iraq and Afghanistan are nearly 1,000 miles from each other, right?

  11. anjin-san says:

    You do realize that Iraq and Afghanistan are nearly 1,000 miles from each other, right?

    Of course there is also the issue that Saddam and Islamist terrorists were natural enemies and Saddam would probably have slit their throats had they tried to set up bases in Iraq.

  12. anjin-san says:

    You make it sound like it was a spur the moment thing, it driven by anger against the U.S.. I tell you a politically motivated and premeditated.

    True enough. Had we not overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran, things might have worked out much better for all parties involved.

  13. Davebo says:

    So the Islamist terrorists being able to use Iraq as a base against our Afghan ops, wouldn’t have made things just as complicated? Sorry, no sale.

    I always suspected Bit was a spoof.

  14. Tlaloc says:

    Personally I’d vastly prefer to keep the carriers but withdraw our troops from the 20 odd countries we currently occupy. Bring them home and put them in defensive missions (including inspecting incoming freight, and yes I know you need congress to sign off on that due to posse comitatus)

  15. just me says:

    I am sure there are places and ways for the DOD to cut expenses, although sometimes I think the cuts are made in areas that later prove to be mistakes.

    I am all for making cuts in areas and ways that make the military more cost efficient but doesn’t compromise the ability to wage war. My concern is that cuts will be made in ways that either place more stress on those serving or making missions more dangerous.

    Cutting back the number of carriers under Clinton actually required sailors spend more time at sea, which caused greater stress on their families-those kinds of cuts may save money, but they also make it harder on the members of the military over the long haul.

  16. mannning says:

    There is great merit in allowing new weapons systems to be designed, produced in limited quantities, tested thoroughly, and then to stretch out their production phase over a longer period than necessary. That increases the unit cost, while drastically lowering the quantity production costs, but it does preserve the possibility of ramping up production of proven systems rapidly as needed. This production surge response might be useful for as long as 20 years or more, if proper updating takes place for electronics, tooling and materials.

    If some of the cuts that take place actually do preserve the production capability, we receive at least some payback for the initial sunk costs.

    Then, too, the early production models, for the F-22, as a for-instance, will undergo substantial modifications over their service life, thus keeping the “technological edge” of the item sharp.

    During the last major cutback under Clinton, we lost far more than weapons systems. We lost a significant percentage of our combat-experienced NCOs, which is something we cannot afford to do now.

    It is interesting that just as Russia shows signs of rebuilding its armed forces, we serouisly consider reducing our capabilities.

    That this Obama reduction includes a possible cut back in the number of carrier task forces is, to me, a sign of naivete, or sheer will to cut, and be damned with the consequences. This is one weapons system that by its very size and complexity, amd by the necessity for highly trained cadres, cannot be turned on and off, mothballed and refitted out, with any speed at all. We should keep what we have.

  17. sam says:

    @Manning

    That this Obama reduction includes a possible cut back in the number of carrier task forces is, to me, a sign of naivete, or sheer will to cut, and be damned with the consequences.

    But the material James quoted says:

    Gates [my emphasis] also is considering…reducing the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10… according to industry and administration sources.

    Are you contending that Gates is naive, since he is championing the reduction? (As an aside, if we do reduce the number of CVs from 11 to 10, alas, it will probably be Enterprise that goes, commissioned 1961.)

    And James writes:

    Even beyond the tactics of negotiating this through Congress, the proposed moves are a baby step. … [B]ut only mothballing only one carrier group? There are those who argue that carriers have been outmoded since roughly the Battle of Midway. Do we really need 10 of them?

    Is James naive, too? (I pass over my dig at him re college sports, supra…. 🙂 )

    I guess I’m perturbed at the “he’s naive” meme that seems to have infected many on the right these days. He does listen to his advisers, and if Gates, whom George Bush trusted enough to make SecDef, recommends something, and Obama follows his recommendation, I don’t see how he can be charged with naivete.

  18. Bithead says:

    You do realize that Iraq and Afghanistan are nearly 1,000 miles from each other, right?

    You’d better say something to the islamists showing up in both places. Apparently they don’t know the area as well as you.

  19. anjin-san says:

    You’d better say something to the islamists showing up in both places.

    You conveniently leave out the fact that the “Islamists” showed up in Iraq after we overthrew the government there and created a vacuum into which they could move.

  20. You conveniently leave out the fact that the “Islamists” showed up in Iraq after we overthrew the government there and created a vacuum into which they could move.

    The issue isn’t whether there are militants in both places, it’s whether, as you claim, militants based in Iraq can threaten our forces in Afghanistan, which they can’t as they are rather lacking in long range aviation and missile forces.

  21. Sorry, cut and paste fail, I meant that to respond to Bithead’s post, not anjin-san’s

  22. mannning says:

    Sam: Do you really think that Gates is acting entirely on his own hook in considering cuts? I doubt that. He, as many others in cabinet positions, must respond to the orders of the President: a)to find possible cuts and their consequences on our defense posture; and b)to present them to the President in some logical order, ultimately to meet a cost savings objective at the least impact on our defense.

    I believe that Gates has his marching orders from Obama, probably suggested in part to Obama by some of the military advisors that he employs in schools and gaggles, giving Gates a percentage decrease to shoot for that is pulled out of thin air from the wisdom of intra-service rivalries, disgruntled senior officers, and ex Presidential advisors.

    It would be logical for Gates, who is anything but naive, to feed the fires in the ranks and in the Congress to get the admirals and generals to be more compliant, and to give the Congressional crowd the opportunity to stoke up their political defenses for any number of key military programs.

    I would confine my accusation of naivete to Obama himself, both on establishing the initial percentage cutting side and on the probable final decisions. This is especially so if it is Obama and his close advisors that are setting the cost savings objectives in such a way and to such a depth that it forces the DOD into reductions that seriously hurt our warfighting capabilities, and to hell with Gates if he gets in the way.

    Mr. Gates is forced then to operate within his mandate, to give up a list with options to Obama that is distasteful, and Gates is therefore pushing the battle into the political sphere by all possible ways and means.

    Insofar as the carriers are concerned, it was my impression that the 11th carrier was to be retired soon by plan anyway, leaving us with 10. I would like to see a reasoned argument that we do not need 10 over the next 20 years, or even 30, but all I have seen so far is repetition of kitchen ideas sans any real backup or authority. I cannot call that naive, per se, but simply insufficient.

  23. Bithead says:

    You conveniently leave out the fact that the “Islamists” showed up in Iraq after we overthrew the government there and created a vacuum into which they could move.

    Untrue.
    Don’t you ever get tired of spreading this junk?

    The issue isn’t whether there are militants in both places, it’s whether, as you claim, militants based in Iraq can threaten our forces in Afghanistan, which they can’t as they are rather lacking in long range aviation and missile forces.

    Don’t need it. Or are you suggesting all they can do is WALK?

  24. anjin-san says:

    Untrue.

    See bit, when you say something is “untrue”, a rational person then knows that it probably is, in reality, true.

    We still remember your rants about how we were 2 weeks away from victory in Vietnam when the Democrats surrendered, and how McCain was headed for a big win the day before the 2008 election.

    To most of us, truth has a deeper meaning than “I read it on a right wing rant site”…

  25. anjin-san says:

    I can’t resist a bithead reprint from last election season. I know he does not intend to be a comedian, but really, he makes Stewart look like an amateur when it comes to laughs:

    The resilience of the Hillary Clinton dead-enders is surprising.

    Not so much, James. I’ve been saying for months now that Obama never gain the real support of the party faithful, in full, and so would never win the GE. Beginning to look like I called it.

    Interesting, since I’m also on record as saying Clinton would never get the nomination. The split we saw between Clinton and Obama is now if anything deeper than it was a few months ago.

    Obama will get blanked in the general. Not that Clinton would do any better; shed not make it without black voter support which because of Obama, wouldn’t happen.

    The patterns are all there for a landslide for McCain; This is 1968 all over again.

    Consider; Back in 68, we had a very notably liberal Republican in Nixon. We had a Democrat party nomination fight between two fairly closely matched Democrat candidates whose Democrat supporters each would never vote for the other candidate. We wave every left-wing crazy on the planet who could hitch a ride, in Chicago, protesting the war. The party leadership ended up having to take a hand to get the nomination process done, which alienated around half the party. The resulting breakup of the Democrats in 68 was of legendary proportions.

    What happened then shows all the signs of happening this year in Denver. In OBama and Clinton we have two candidates whose political and family roots are deep in liberal Chicago politics. We have a very notably liberal Republican in McCain. We have a Democrat party nomination fight between two fairly closely matched Democrat candidates whose Democrat supporters each would never vote for the other candidate. We have rumors of every left-wing crazy on the planet who can hitch a ride, in Denver for the convention, to protest the war. This Clinton Obama thing will be close enough that the party leadership will be forced to take a hand in the decision.. and there are already signs that any choice they make won’t be popular. Is there any conclusion but that the resulting breakup of the Democrats in 08 was will be of legendary proportions?

    Posted by Bithead | July 5, 2008 | 11:44 am | Permalink

    Well, just the conclusion that the sane people reached 🙂

  26. sam says:

    @Manning

    Sam: Do you really think that Gates is acting entirely on his own hook in considering cuts? I doubt that. He, as many others in cabinet positions, must respond to the orders of the President: a)to find possible cuts and their consequences on our defense posture; and b)to present them to the President in some logical order, ultimately to meet a cost savings objective at the least impact on our defense.

    But Manning, it’s not as if Gates himself has not previously argued for cuts and reorientation of the defense budget. See, Fred Kaplan, Staying On: Keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defense is a great idea.

    In his nearly two years at the helm of the Pentagon, Gates has delivered a series of speeches on the future direction of military policy. He has urged officers to recognize the shift in the face of warfare from the World War II legacy of titanic armored battles between comparably mighty foes to the modern reality of small shadow wars against terrorists and insurgents.

    More than that, he has called for systematic adjustments to this new reality: canceling weapons systems that aren’t suited to these kinds of wars and building more weapons that are; reforming the promotion boards to reward and advance the creative officers who have proved most adept at this style of warfare; rethinking the roles and missions of the individual branches of the armed services; siphoning some of the military’s missions, especially those dealing with “nation building,” to civilian agencies.

    See the article cited and follow the links therein.

  27. Bithead says:

    I would confine my accusation of naivete to Obama himself, both on establishing the initial percentage cutting side and on the probable final decisions. This is especially so if it is Obama and his close advisors that are setting the cost savings objectives in such a way and to such a depth that it forces the DOD into reductions that seriously hurt our warfighting capabilities, and to hell with Gates if he gets in the way.

    Agreement, all points.

    I can’t resist a bithead reprint from last election season.

    Of course you can’t. Someone recently commented about derailing topics on this site. Gee… I wonder who that could have been?

    That said, I admit it; I over-estimated the smarts of the American voter.

  28. anjin-san says:

    That said, I admit it; I over-estimated the smarts of the American voter.

    Actually, you over-estimated the smarts of bithead. And congratulated yourself for doing so in the process 🙂

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Let’s see…we have over 30,000 troops in Japan, almost 60,000 troops in Germany, and almost 10,000 troops apiece in the UK and Italy, not to mention over one million troops in our country…what significant amount of money could we save if we drew down these numbers? Of course, I’m sure some around here would call such an idea “naive”…perhaps we’ll be invaded by Canada, or Germany will be invaded by Poland (what, with their history and all that)…hell, maybe Japan will be invaded by North Korea…you just never know…

  30. Don’t need it. Or are you suggesting all they can do is WALK?

    No, I’m suggesting you can’t base attacks on a particular target in a particular location unless you have a way of projecting power from one to the other, and that Islamic militants have no way of doing projecting power to Afghanistan from someplace as far away as Iraq.

  31. mannning says:

    Well, Sam, I guess I will have to admit that I was wrong.

    Gates himself is also naive.

    Too bad, he seems to be a smart fellow, other than looking for ways to diminish our overall military strength on the mere perception of a need to rebalance in ways that will seriously hurt us in about 10 more years. Short term benefits, but long-term deficiencies seems to be his kick, when we need both guns, troops, and butter.

    There is no question but we could save money by reducing or eliminating waste and duplication, poor procurement practices, and the machinations of conniving contractors. Our industrial complex has acceptable cost growth down to a fine art via all sorts of maneuvers, such as the ECP/ECN cascade on a given project.

    I recall that Lockheed had over 110 ECPs ready immediately after they had a signed contract for the C-5, which eventually contributed to a 100% overrun. With both the F-22 and F-35 in their shop, what might the ECP/ECNs be doing for them now?

    Next we will hear that we simply don’t need the new tankers at all, or worse, that the Airbus people deserve to have the contract.

    Is there anyone that truly believes that we will never, never again in 30 years face another Saddam, a large ground force, open warfare, interdiction of our supply lines, two-front flareups on opposite sides of the world, or a missile threat to the US continent? I would point out to them that serious enemy force buildups can take place in a matter of 3 to 6 years, and that if we are at the same time building down our forces for the kind of warfare this enemy is scheming for, we are going in the wrong direction.

    We are dealing with both a lack of trust, and the naivete of the new players, against a sophisticated defense of existing and planned contracts, and a real world out there that doesn’t play by Obama/Gates &Co rules.

  32. mannning says:

    It is certainly a valid point that we need to get the fighting troops out of the nation-building game. That requires specialities that the soldier doesn’t have, and takes his main skills of fighting away. I agree with Thomas Barnett on this point (“The Pentagon’s New Map”). But this has little to do with equipping our troops with the best weapons and support that we can afford over a wide spectrum of warfare.

  33. anjin-san says:

    real world out there that doesn’t play by Obama/Gates &Co rules.

    Yes, and in that real world we spend what, as much on defense as the rest of the world put together? Our enemies don’t have to defeat us in battle, they can just wait for us to go broke.

  34. mannning says:

    We are going broke with whom at the wheel?

    Obama now owns the entire set of problems we are facing. It is his watch. I am not encouraged by his spending us into the poorhouse, many times the spending blamed on Bush, and in ways that neither help the problems nor make us more secure.
    His incremental approach to socialism is likewise not going to make the average citizen feel more secure, and that is being reflected in his decreasing poll numbers.

    But, playing the blame game is characteristic of Obamaites, even after they bought the title of biggest spenders in history. Too bad they cannot pay for it in the end. Credit rating: 0.01

    We as a nation have supported a military budget of around 8-10% of the GDP for decades, and from a global point of view, it has been well worth it.

    We should continue to do so, and without seeking “peace dividends” al la Clinton that get spent on earmarks and pet projects. No more $300 million bridges to nowhere!

  35. anjin-san says:

    Manning,

    If it make you feel better to tell yourself that Bush did not leave office with the economy on the brink of collapse, by all means, go for it.

    Obama does indeed own all of it, unlike your man, who took responsibility for nothing.