Tag Archives: Pentagon Budget

A 14 Year Military Reporter Describes “Budget Day” At The Pentagon

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https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/beltway-bandits-cronyism-and-department-of-defense-exclusive-contracts/

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article in “Task and Purpose” by Jeff Schogol, although a bit risque, is an apt description of the annual event I witnessed for 36 years on the inside of the Military Industrial Complex among the nations largest defense contractors. At times those of us who know the venue well appreciate a lighter view of it. I found Jeff’s talent for knowledgeably creating that view delightful and along the lines of the legendary HBO Movie, “Pentagon Wars” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXQ2lO3ieBA Ken Larson

TASK AND PURPOSE” By Jeff Schogol  

One thing your friendly Pentagon correspondent has learned is there are two things you can write about on budget day: Toys and people.

Right now, the U.S. military is like a 5-year-old at a birthday party. Every time it sees that another kid has received a present, it decides that it must have the exact same thing. (Oh, China got hypersonic weapons this year? I want one!)”

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“Beloved readers: Monday is the most wonderful all days – budget day!

The Defense Department will unveil its part of the president’s budget request. If you’re a trade reporter, budget day is like Independence Day, Christmas, and the Super Bowl wrapped up in a crushing orgasm.

Your friend and humble narrator has covered quite a few of these budget rollouts over the years. Each time, this reporter asks himself the same question: “How the hell did I get through this last year?”

The answer is simple, really: Budget day is a smorgasbord of figures that have little bearing on reality because lawmakers will end up rewriting the budget to reward their constituents. Defense officials also spend hours speaking in tongues by using arcane acronyms like “POM.” (A Program Objective Memorandum outlines defense spending for the next five years. Since that spans two election cycles, POMs are altered so many times that they become totally unrecognizable from their original form.)

Each defense budget is loaded with toys so that defense industry executives can pay the mortgage for their winter homes in the French Riviera. For reporters who cover the Navy, the big question is how many ships the service plans to build.

Navy leadership has stressed that it is committed to having a total of 355 ships by 2030 even though they have no plan to get there. (For their next miracle, they will walk on water and hand out enough fish and loaves for everyone to enjoy.)

Air Force watchers want to know how many F-35 fighters, KC-46 tankers, and B-21 bombers the service plans to pay for – and then act surprised when the aircraft don’t work. The KC-46, for example, is years behind schedule and the need for a new tanker is urgent because the Air Force’s KC-135s first entered service in the 1950s. (Rather than listing everything that is wrong with the KC-46, I’ll sum up by saying this: It’s built by Boeing.)

While the Air Force is tucking $100 bills into the aerospace industry’s bra strap, the Army will get to talk about all of its new and wonderful modernization programs that don’t have a prayer of becoming a reality. Do you remember the multiple times the Army has tried to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle? Yeah, they couldn’t even do that.

God bless the Army, but they are always looking for the gold-plated solution so they can never make a decision. Instead, they will down-select from 150 vendors to 75, and then order five years of intensive testing to find out things such as whether the new squad automatic rifle can fire in space. By the time the Army is comfortable choosing between two options, all the people who were originally in charge of the project have retired or died of old age and Congress will end up cancelling the project.

If you cover the Marine Corps, budget day is about looking for scraps. The Corps’ acquisition budget is tiny compared to the other services because they don’t buy aircraft carriers or bombers. They are constantly looking for a new amphibious vehicle or other weapon systems that are the equivalent of Dollar Store specials. That’s one reason why Marines know there is no better acquisition system than stealing gear from the Army.

The other major category of budget stories looks at whether the military services are adding people – like the Army and Marine Corps did during the Iraq War – or drawing down, as all the military branches did during President Barack Obama’s second term. (The Air Force was so enthusiastic about cutting airmen that one can imagine the service’s leadership singing “It’s Raining Men” at the time.)

When President Donald Trump was elected, there was some speculation that the Marine Corps could become much larger because Trump had endorsed a recommendation from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that the Corps have a total of 36 battalions. But in 2017, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Corps to fix its readiness problems without adding more Marines. (Once again, the Marine Corps was SOL. Note the pattern.)

Whatever great and wondrous things are included in the Pentagon’s latest proposed budget, expect your friend and humble narrator to be listening with rapt attention as military officials go through endless Power Point presentations that have all of the excitement of J-Lo and Shakira’s halftime show – without the vibrating derrieres.”

Image result for jEFF SCHOGOL TASK AND PURPOSE
Jeff Schogol

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. 

https://taskandpurpose.com/pentagon-budget-day

It’s Time to Stop Stuffing the Defense Budget

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THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO) From the Article, “Bestselling Pentagon Fiction”

For the Pentagon, happy days are here again (if they ever left). With a budget totaling more than $1.4 trillion for the next two years, the department is riding high, even as it attempts to set the stage for yet more spending increases in the years to come.”

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“With such enormous sums now locked in, Secretary of Defense (and former Raytheon lobbyist) Mark Esper is already going through a ritual that couldn’t be more familiar to Pentagon watchers. He’s pledged to “reform” the bureaucracy and the spending priorities of the Department of Defense to better address the latest proposed threats du jour, Russia and China. His main focus: paring back the Pentagon’s “Fourth Estate” — an alphabet soup of bureaucracies not under the control of any of the military services that sucks up about 20% of the $700 billion-plus annual budget.

Esper’s promises to streamline the spending machine should be taken with more than the usual grain of salt. Virtually every secretary of defense in living memory has made similar commitments, with little or nothing to show for them in terms of documented savings. Far from eliminating wasteful programs, efforts pursued by those past secretaries and by Congress under similar banners have been effective in only one obvious way: further reducing oversight and civilian control of the Pentagon rather than waste and inefficiency in it.

Examples of gutting oversight under the guise of reform abound, including attempting to eliminate offices focused on closing excess military bases and sidelining officials responsible for testing the safety and effectiveness of weapon systems before their deployment. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, for instance, the slogan of the day — “reinventing government” — ended up, in Pentagon terms, meaning the gutting of contract oversight. In fact, just to repair the damage from that so-called reform and rebuild that workforce took another $3.5 billion. Gordon Adams, former associate director for national security and international affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, noted accurately that such efforts often prove little more than a “phony management savings waltz.”

Secretary of Defense Esper has also pledged to eliminate older weapons programs to make way for systems more suited to great power conflict. Past efforts along these lines have meant attempts to retire proven, less expensive systems like the A-10 “Warthog” — the close-air-support aircraft that protects troops in combat — to make way for the over-priced, underperforming F-35 jet fighter and similar projects.

Never mind that a war with either Russia or China — both nuclear-armed states — would be catastrophic. Never mind that more effort should be spent figuring out how to avoid conflict with both of them, rather than spinning out scenarios for fighting them more effectively (or at least more expensively). Prioritizing unlikely scenarios makes for a great payday for contractors, but often sacrifices the ability of the military to actually address current challenges. It takes the focus away from effectively fighting the real asymmetric wars the U.S. has been fighting since World War II. It leaves taxpayers with massive bills for systems that almost invariably turn out to be over cost and behind schedule. Just as an infamous (and nonexistent) “bomber gap” with the Soviet Union was used by the Pentagon and its boosters to increase military spending in the 1950s, the current hype around ultra-high-speed, hypersonic weapons will only lead to sky’s-the-limit expenditures and a new global arms race.

Esper’s efforts may end up failing even on their own narrow terms. Reforming the Pentagon is hard work, not only because it’s one of the world’s largest bureaucracies, but because there are far too many parochial interests that profit from the status quo. Under the circumstances, it matters little if current spending patterns aren’t aligned with any rational notion of what it would take to defend the United States and its allies.

A Revolving-Door World

The Department of Defense regularly claims that it has implemented “efficiencies” to ensure that every penny of your tax dollars is being wisely spent. Such efforts, however, are little more than marketing ploys designed to fend off future calls for cuts in the Pentagon’s still-ballooning budget. Here are just two recent examples of this sadly familiar story.

In September 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report stating that the Department of Defense had provided insufficient evidence that $154 billion in alleged “efficiency savings” from fiscal years 2012 to 2016 had been realized; the department claimed credit for them anyway.

Just this month, the GAO came to a similar conclusion regarding a proposed Pentagon reform plan that was to save $18.4 billion between fiscal years 2017 and 2020. Its report stated that the Pentagon had “provided limited documentation of… progress,” which meant the GAO “could not independently assess and verify” it. Consider that a charitable way of suggesting that the Department of Defense was once again projecting a false image of fiscal discipline, even as it was drowning in hundreds of billions of your tax dollars. The GAO, however, failed to mention one crucial thing: even if those alleged savings had been realized, they would simply have been plowed into other Pentagon programs, not used to reduce the department’s bloated budget.

Esper and his colleagues have argued that it will be different this time. In an August 2nd memo, his principal deputy, David Norquist, stated that “we will begin immediately and move forward aggressively… The review will consider all ideas — no reform is too small, too bold, or too controversial to be considered.”

Even if Esper and Norquist were, however, to propose real changes, they would undoubtedly run into serious interference within the Pentagon, not to mention from their commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, a man determined to plough ever more taxpayer dollars into the military, and from members of Congress in states counting on jobs generated by the military-industrial complex. Inside the Pentagon, on the other hand, resistance to change will be spearheaded by officials who previously held jobs in the defense industry or hope to do so in the future. We’re talking, of course, about those who have made use of, or will make use of, the infamous “revolving door” between weapons companies and the government. Consider that the essence of the military-industrial complex in action.

Such ties start at the top. During the Trump administration, the post of secretary of defense has been passed from one former defense industry figure to another, as if it were literally reserved only for key officials from major weapons makers. Trump’s first secretary of defense, retired General James (“Mad Dog”) Mattis, came to the Pentagon straight from the board of General Dynamics, a position he returned to shortly after leaving the department. Interim Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who followed him, had been an executive at Boeing, while current Secretary Esper was Raytheon’s former chief in-house lobbyist. The Pentagon’s number three official, John Rood, similarly comes courtesy of Lockheed Martin. And the list only goes on from there.

This has been a systemic problem in Democratic and Republican administrations, but there has been a marked increase in such appointments under Donald Trump. A Bloomberg Government analysis found that roughly half of the Obama administration’s top Pentagon officials had defense contractor experience. In the Trump administration, that number has reached a startling 80%-plus.

That revolving door, of course, swings both ways. Defense executives come into government, where they make decisions that benefit their former colleagues and companies. Then, as retiring government officials, they go to work for defense firms where they can use their carefully developed government contacts to benefit their new (or old) employers. This practice is endemic. A study by the Project On Government Oversight found 645 cases in which the top 20 defense contractors hired former senior government officials, military officers, members of Congress, or senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 alone.

There is, of course, nothing new about any of this. The late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) pinpointed the problem with the revolving door back in 1969:

“The easy movement of high-ranking military officers into jobs with major defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years from retirement and have the example to look at over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

Such revolving-door hires and former defense executives in government remain a powerful force for the status quo in Pentagon spending. They exert influence as needed to keep big-ticket weapons programs like the F-35 combat aircraft up and running, whether they are needed or not, whether they work as promised or not.

For his part, President Trump has repeatedly bragged about his role in promoting defense-related employment in key states, both from Pentagon budget increases and the sale of arms to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. In March, he held a one-hour campaign-style rally for workers at a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, at which he typically suggested that his budget increases had saved their jobs.

As for Congress, when the Army, in a rare move, actually sought to save a modest amount of money by canceling an upgrade of its CH-47 transport helicopter, the Senate struck back, calling for funding that the Pentagon hadn’t even requested in order to proceed with the program. The reason? Protecting jobs at Boeing’s Philadelphia-area factory that was scheduled to carry out the upgrades. Unsurprisingly, Trump seems fine with this congressional initiative (affecting the key battleground state of Pennsylvania), which still needs to survive a House-Senate conference on the defense bill.

The bottom line: Donald Trump is likely to oppose any changes that might have even the smallest impact on employment in states where he needs support in election campaign 2020. Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson summed up the case as follows: “We’re too close to the presidential election and nobody [at the White House] wants to lose votes by killing a program.” And keep in mind that this president is far from alone in taking such a stance. Similar reelection pressures led former President Jimmy Carter to increase Pentagon spending at the end of his term and caused the George H. W. Bush administration to reverse a decision to cancel the troubled V-22 Osprey, a novel part-helicopter, part-airplane that would later be implicated in crashes killing dozens of Marines.

“We Won’t Get Fooled Again”

What would a genuine Pentagon reform plan look like? There are areas that could easily yield major savings with sufficient political will and persistence. The most obvious of these might be the Pentagon’s employment of more than 600,000 private contractors, many of whom do jobs that could be done by government civilians for less. Cutting that work force to “only” about half a million, for example, could save more than a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next decade, as noted in a recent report by the Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force (of which both authors of this article were members).

Billions more could be saved by eliminating unnecessary military bases. Even the Pentagon claims that it has 20% more facilities than it needs. A more reasonable, restrained defense strategy, including ending America’s twenty-first-century forever wars, would make far more bases redundant, both at home and among the 800 or so now scattered around the planet in an historically unprecedented fashion. Similarly, the president’s obsession with creating an expensive Space Force should be blocked, given that it’s likely only to increase bureaucracy and duplication, while ensuring an arms race above the planet as well as on it.

Real reform would also mean changing how the Pentagon does business (not to speak of the way it makes war). Such savings would naturally start by simply curbing the corruption that comes from personnel in high positions who are guaranteed to put the interests of defense contractors ahead of those of taxpayers and the real needs of American security. (There are also few restrictions on former officials working for foreign governments and almost no public disclosure on the subject.) The Project On Government Oversight found hundreds of Pentagon officials leaving for defense industry jobs, raising obvious questions about whether decisions they made were in the public interest or meant to advance their own future paydays.

Real reform would close the many loopholes in current ethics laws, extend cooling-off periods between when an official leaves government and when he or she can work for an arms contractor, and make far more prominent information about when retired national security officials switch teams from government to industry (or vice versa). Unfortunately, since Esper himself has refused to pledge not to return to the world of the corporate weapons makers after his stint as secretary of defense, this sort of reform will undoubtedly never be part of his “reform” agenda.

One outcome of his initiative, however, will definitely not be money-saving in any way. It will be to boost spending on high-tech systems like missile defense and artificial intelligence on the almost laughable grounds (given the past history of weapons development) that they can provide more military capability for less money. Whether you look at the Navy’s Ford aircraft carriers — the first two costing $13.1 billion and $11.3 billion — or the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker (which has taken nearly two decades to procure), it’s not hard to see how often vaunted technological revolutions prove staggeringly costly — far, far beyond initial estimates — yet result in smaller, less effective forces. As longtime Pentagon reformer Tom Christie has pointed out, to really change the acquisition system would require building in significantly more discipline. That would mean demonstrating the effective and reliable use of new technology through rigorous field-testing before advancing fragile weapons systems to the production stage, ensuring future maintenance and other headaches for troops in combat.

There is, in addition, a larger issue underlying all this talk of spending reform at the Pentagon. After all, Esper’s “reforms” are visibly designed to align Pentagon spending with the department’s new priority: combatting the security challenges posed by Russia and China. Start with one crucial thing: these challenges have been greatly exaggerated, both in the Trump administration’s national defense strategy and in the report of the industry-led National Defense Strategy Commission. That document, when you analyze its future math, even had the nerve to claim that the Pentagon budget would need to be boosted to nearly $1 trillion annually within the next five years, reports Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Russia has much to answer for — from its assistance to the Syrian army’s ongoing slaughter of civilians to its military meddling in the affairs of Ukraine — but the response to such challenges should not be to spend more on ships, planes, and advanced nuclear weapons, as current Pentagon plans would do. In reality, the economy and military of Russia, a shaky petro-state only passing for a great power, are already overshadowed by those of the U.S. and its NATO allies. Throwing more money at the Pentagon will do nothing to change Russian behavior in a positive fashion. Taking measures that are in the interests of both countries like renewing the New START nuclear reduction treaty and beginning new talks on curbing their massive nuclear arsenals would be extremely valuable in their own right and might also open the door to negotiations on other issues of mutual concern.

China’s challenge to the U.S is significantly more economic than military and, if those two nations wanted to make the planet a safer place, they would cooperate in addressing the threat of climate change, not launch a new arms race. Genuine reform of the Pentagon’s massive budget is urgently needed, but rest assured that Secretary of Defense Esper’s claims about implementing real changes to save taxpayer dollars while making the U.S. military more effective are the equivalent of bestseller-list Pentagon fiction. The motto of Congress, not to speak of the White House and the public, with respect to the Pentagon’s latest claims of fiscal probity should be “we won’t get fooled again.”

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/09/bestselling-pentagon-fiction/


Pentagon Officially Fails Second Audit

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Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone

DEFENSE NEWS

For the second year in a row, the Pentagon has officially failed its audit. And for the second year in a row, that result was expected.

The audit effort covered more than $2.9 trillion in total assets and $2.8 trillion in liabilities, with 1,400 auditors, visiting 600 sites around the world and requesting more than 100,000 samples of equipment as they surveyed the department’s inventory.

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“Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, told reporters ahead of the formal audit release — which occurred late on a busy Friday night in Washington — that “as expected,” the department would be receiving what is known as an “overall disclaimer,” a technical term that means the results of the audit did not come back clean.

Still, McCusker said she sees real progress being made. “I think the department has been pretty open with the fact that it’s got material weaknesses, it’s got things that need [to be] fixed,” she said. “But, you know, our ability to really demonstrate solid progress, I think is the headline.”

The department’s overall audit is really a series of 24 individual audits, led by the Department of Defense’s inspector general, in collaboration with the comptroller’s office. Of those, seven came back clean, an improvement by one (the Defense Commissary Agency) over the previous audit. Two audits are still ongoing and will be completed by January.

Through all that research, auditors found no evidence of fraud for the second straight year. They also turned up what McCusker called “completeness” of major military equipment inventories, which is to say, major defense articles are where they were supposed to be.

In a statement, acting inspector general Glenn Fine said the “Department of Defense has made progress in improving its financial management processes since the prior year audit, but much more progress is necessary. The Department of Defense still has a long way to go before it will be able to obtain a clean opinion.”

A 1990 law passed by Congress required audits for all government agencies. But the Pentagon had been the sole holdout, with leadership across several administrations arguing the building is too large and has too many systems that don’t link up, to give any kind of helpful result that would be worth the cost.

Finally, last year the Pentagon’s first audit was completed, much to the relief of long-annoyed members of Congress. DoD officials have pledged to keep the audit going every year.

Of the 2,300 Notifications of Findings and Recommendations, which is to say specific issues found by the audit, issued after the FY18 effort, 23 percent were closed by the FY19 audit, which McCusker called “solid progress for our first year.” She also warned that the NFR number will grow “as auditors go deeper into our systems and processes. This is a good thing. We need continued focus on property accountability, inventory and property in the hands of contractors and our systems.”

According to the IG report, 1,300 new NFRs were discovered during the course of the audit.

The department also released a list of positives from the audit, including:

  • A deep dive into inventory at Naval Air Station Jacksonville identified $280 million of items not tracked properly. Of that, $81 million of material was identified as available for immediate use for Naval operations that the service had no idea it had on hand. Getting rid of old, unusable material freed up approximately 200,000 square feet of storage space.
  • The Army implemented a new automated solution for data entry into the U.S. Standard General Ledger. Moving to automation should save the service around 15,500 labor hours.
  • The Air Force also tapped automation, in order to identify user accounts that are no longer relevant in military IT systems, closing an average of 55 a month, which should improve cyber security.

That Air Force project ties into the biggest single area of concern identified by the FY18 audit: information technology realm, both from inventory issues and from failure to follow security recommendations. McCusker said the department closed roughly 30 percent of the overall NFRs in the IT area this year, with a particularly high closure rate among the services.

“We’re really getting at physical access controls, authority documentation, you know, policies that we were updating controls on privilege of users. We really went after all those areas,” she said. “Still plenty to do, but we did focus on that.”

The audit cost around $1 billion to execute, of which roughly half was the cost of fixing issues previously identified. McCusker said she expects the $1 billion figure to be “pretty consistent for a few years” going forward, and argued the investment was small compared to not just the financial return, but improvements for the warfighting capability of the department.

“As far as the return on investment from the audit, you know, when we do automation, and we reduce manual workloads, we free up manpower, and that’s a savings,” she said. “DLA did some inventory and saved over $200 million when they found some inventory that they put back into the system.”

However, those savings won’t be plowed right back into the 2021 budget plans, with McCusker saying “We’ve got a lot of I think examples that get to the savings side of things, but it’s not going to be something that I would translate into, you know, a trackable way that goes into the ‘21 budget, that would be more of some of the reform stuff that we’re doing and you’ll see that.”

https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/11/16/the-pentagon-completed-its-second-audit-what-did-it-find/

Bestselling Pentagon Fiction

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Image: Matt Wuerker -“Politico dot Com Gallery

THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)

Revolving-door hires and former defense executives in government remain a powerful force for the status quo in Pentagon spending.

They exert influence as needed to keep big-ticket weapons programs like the F-35 combat aircraft up and running, whether they are needed or not, whether they work as promised or not.

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“This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.com.

For the Pentagon, happy days are here again (if they ever left). With a budget totaling more than $1.4 trillion for the next two years, the department is riding high, even as it attempts to set the stage for yet more spending increases in the years to come.

With such enormous sums now locked in, Secretary of Defense (and former Raytheon lobbyist) Mark Esper is already going through a ritual that couldn’t be more familiar to Pentagon watchers. He’s pledged to “reform” the bureaucracy and the spending priorities of the Department of Defense to better address the latest proposed threats du jour, Russia and China. His main focus: paring back the Pentagon’s “Fourth Estate” — an alphabet soup of bureaucracies not under the control of any of the military services that sucks up about 20% of the $700 billion-plus annual budget.

Esper’s promises to streamline the spending machine should be taken with more than the usual grain of salt. Virtually every secretary of defense in living memory has made similar commitments, with little or nothing to show for them in terms of documented savings. Far from eliminating wasteful programs, efforts pursued by those past secretaries and by Congress under similar banners have been effective in only one obvious way: further reducing oversight and civilian control of the Pentagon rather than waste and inefficiency in it.

Examples of gutting oversight under the guise of reform abound, including attempting to eliminate offices focused on closing excess military bases and sidelining officials responsible for testing the safety and effectiveness of weapon systems before their deployment. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, for instance, the slogan of the day — “reinventing government” — ended up, in Pentagon terms, meaning the gutting of contract oversight. In fact, just to repair the damage from that so-called reform and rebuild that workforce took another $3.5 billion. Gordon Adams, former associate director for national security and international affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, noted accurately that such efforts often prove little more than a “phony management savings waltz.”

Secretary of Defense Esper has also pledged to eliminate older weapons programs to make way for systems more suited to great power conflict. Past efforts along these lines have meant attempts to retire proven, less expensive systems like the A-10 “Warthog” — the close-air-support aircraft that protects troops in combat — to make way for the over-priced, underperforming F-35 jet fighter and similar projects.

Never mind that a war with either Russia or China — both nuclear-armed states — would be catastrophic. Never mind that more effort should be spent figuring out how to avoid conflict with both of them, rather than spinning out scenarios for fighting them more effectively (or at least more expensively). Prioritizing unlikely scenarios makes for a great payday for contractors, but often sacrifices the ability of the military to actually address current challenges. It takes the focus away from effectively fighting the real asymmetric wars the U.S. has been fighting since World War II. It leaves taxpayers with massive bills for systems that almost invariably turn out to be over cost and behind schedule. Just as an infamous (and nonexistent) “bomber gap” with the Soviet Union was used by the Pentagon and its boosters to increase military spending in the 1950s, the current hype around ultra-high-speed, hypersonic weapons will only lead to sky’s-the-limit expenditures and a new global arms race.

Esper’s efforts may end up failing even on their own narrow terms. Reforming the Pentagon is hard work, not only because it’s one of the world’s largest bureaucracies, but because there are far too many parochial interests that profit from the status quo. Under the circumstances, it matters little if current spending patterns aren’t aligned with any rational notion of what it would take to defend the United States and its allies.

A Revolving-Door World

The Department of Defense regularly claims that it has implemented “efficiencies” to ensure that every penny of your tax dollars is being wisely spent. Such efforts, however, are little more than marketing ploys designed to fend off future calls for cuts in the Pentagon’s still-ballooning budget. Here are just two recent examples of this sadly familiar story.

In September 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report stating that the Department of Defense had provided insufficient evidence that $154 billion in alleged “efficiency savings” from fiscal years 2012 to 2016 had been realized; the department claimed credit for them anyway.

Just this month, the GAO came to a similar conclusion regarding a proposed Pentagon reform plan that was to save $18.4 billion between fiscal years 2017 and 2020. Its report stated that the Pentagon had “provided limited documentation of… progress,” which meant the GAO “could not independently assess and verify” it. Consider that a charitable way of suggesting that the Department of Defense was once again projecting a false image of fiscal discipline, even as it was drowning in hundreds of billions of your tax dollars. The GAO, however, failed to mention one crucial thing: even if those alleged savings had been realized, they would simply have been plowed into other Pentagon programs, not used to reduce the department’s bloated budget.

Esper and his colleagues have argued that it will be different this time. In an August 2nd memo, his principal deputy, David Norquist, stated that “we will begin immediately and move forward aggressively… The review will consider all ideas — no reform is too small, too bold, or too controversial to be considered.”

Even if Esper and Norquist were, however, to propose real changes, they would undoubtedly run into serious interference within the Pentagon, not to mention from their commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, a man determined to plough ever more taxpayer dollars into the military, and from members of Congress in states counting on jobs generated by the military-industrial complex. Inside the Pentagon, on the other hand, resistance to change will be spearheaded by officials who previously held jobs in the defense industry or hope to do so in the future. We’re talking, of course, about those who have made use of, or will make use of, the infamous “revolving door” between weapons companies and the government. Consider that the essence of the military-industrial complex in action.

Such ties start at the top. During the Trump administration, the post of secretary of defense has been passed from one former defense industry figure to another, as if it were literally reserved only for key officials from major weapons makers. Trump’s first secretary of defense, retired General James (“Mad Dog”) Mattis, came to the Pentagon straight from the board of General Dynamics, a position he returned to shortly after leaving the department. Interim Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who followed him, had been an executive at Boeing, while current Secretary Esper was Raytheon’s former chief in-house lobbyist. The Pentagon’s number three official, John Rood, similarly comes courtesy of Lockheed Martin. And the list only goes on from there.

This has been a systemic problem in Democratic and Republican administrations, but there has been a marked increase in such appointments under Donald Trump. A Bloomberg Government analysis found that roughly half of the Obama administration’s top Pentagon officials had defense contractor experience. In the Trump administration, that number has reached a startling 80%-plus.

That revolving door, of course, swings both ways. Defense executives come into government, where they make decisions that benefit their former colleagues and companies. Then, as retiring government officials, they go to work for defense firms where they can use their carefully developed government contacts to benefit their new (or old) employers. This practice is endemic. A study by the Project On Government Oversight found 645 cases in which the top 20 defense contractors hired former senior government officials, military officers, members of Congress, or senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 alone.

There is, of course, nothing new about any of this. The late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) pinpointed the problem with the revolving door back in 1969:

“The easy movement of high-ranking military officers into jobs with major defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years from retirement and have the example to look at over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

For his part, President Trump has repeatedly bragged about his role in promoting defense-related employment in key states, both from Pentagon budget increases and the sale of arms to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. In March, he held a one-hour campaign-style rally for workers at a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, at which he typically suggested that his budget increases had saved their jobs.

As for Congress, when the Army, in a rare move, actually sought to save a modest amount of money by canceling an upgrade of its CH-47 transport helicopter, the Senate struck back, calling for funding that the Pentagon hadn’t even requested in order to proceed with the program. The reason? Protecting jobs at Boeing’s Philadelphia-area factory that was scheduled to carry out the upgrades. Unsurprisingly, Trump seems fine with this congressional initiative (affecting the key battleground state of Pennsylvania), which still needs to survive a House-Senate conference on the defense bill.

The bottom line: Donald Trump is likely to oppose any changes that might have even the smallest impact on employment in states where he needs support in election campaign 2020. Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson summed up the case as follows: “We’re too close to the presidential election and nobody [at the White House] wants to lose votes by killing a program.” And keep in mind that this president is far from alone in taking such a stance. Similar reelection pressures led former President Jimmy Carter to increase Pentagon spending at the end of his term and caused the George H. W. Bush administration to reverse a decision to cancel the troubled V-22 Osprey, a novel part-helicopter, part-airplane that would later be implicated in crashes killing dozens of Marines.

“We Won’t Get Fooled Again”

What would a genuine Pentagon reform plan look like? There are areas that could easily yield major savings with sufficient political will and persistence. The most obvious of these might be the Pentagon’s employment of more than 600,000 private contractors, many of whom do jobs that could be done by government civilians for less. Cutting that work force to “only” about half a million, for example, could save more than a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next decade, as noted in a recent report by the Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force (of which both authors of this article were members).

Billions more could be saved by eliminating unnecessary military bases. Even the Pentagon claims that it has 20% more facilities than it needs. A more reasonable, restrained defense strategy, including ending America’s twenty-first-century forever wars, would make far more bases redundant, both at home and among the 800 or so now scattered around the planet in an historically unprecedented fashion. Similarly, the president’s obsession with creating an expensive Space Force should be blocked, given that it’s likely only to increase bureaucracy and duplication, while ensuring an arms race above the planet as well as on it.

Real reform would also mean changing how the Pentagon does business (not to speak of the way it makes war). Such savings would naturally start by simply curbing the corruption that comes from personnel in high positions who are guaranteed to put the interests of defense contractors ahead of those of taxpayers and the real needs of American security. (There are also few restrictions on former officials working for foreign governments and almost no public disclosure on the subject.) The Project On Government Oversight found hundreds of Pentagon officials leaving for defense industry jobs, raising obvious questions about whether decisions they made were in the public interest or meant to advance their own future paydays.

Real reform would close the many loopholes in current ethics laws, extend cooling-off periods between when an official leaves government and when he or she can work for an arms contractor, and make far more prominent information about when retired national security officials switch teams from government to industry (or vice versa). Unfortunately, since Esper himself has refused to pledge not to return to the world of the corporate weapons makers after his stint as secretary of defense, this sort of reform will undoubtedly never be part of his “reform” agenda.

One outcome of his initiative, however, will definitely not be money-saving in any way. It will be to boost spending on high-tech systems like missile defense and artificial intelligence on the almost laughable grounds (given the past history of weapons development) that they can provide more military capability for less money. Whether you look at the Navy’s Ford aircraft carriers — the first two costing $13.1 billion and $11.3 billion — or the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker (which has taken nearly two decades to procure), it’s not hard to see how often vaunted technological revolutions prove staggeringly costly — far, far beyond initial estimates — yet result in smaller, less effective forces. As longtime Pentagon reformer Tom Christie has pointed out, to really change the acquisition system would require building in significantly more discipline. That would mean demonstrating the effective and reliable use of new technology through rigorous field-testing before advancing fragile weapons systems to the production stage, ensuring future maintenance and other headaches for troops in combat.

There is, in addition, a larger issue underlying all this talk of spending reform at the Pentagon. After all, Esper’s “reforms” are visibly designed to align Pentagon spending with the department’s new priority: combatting the security challenges posed by Russia and China. Start with one crucial thing: these challenges have been greatly exaggerated, both in the Trump administration’s national defense strategy and in the report of the industry-led National Defense Strategy Commission. That document, when you analyze its future math, even had the nerve to claim that the Pentagon budget would need to be boosted to nearly $1 trillion annually within the next five years, reports Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Russia has much to answer for — from its assistance to the Syrian army’s ongoing slaughter of civilians to its military meddling in the affairs of Ukraine — but the response to such challenges should not be to spend more on ships, planes, and advanced nuclear weapons, as current Pentagon plans would do. In reality, the economy and military of Russia, a shaky petro-state only passing for a great power, are already overshadowed by those of the U.S. and its NATO allies. Throwing more money at the Pentagon will do nothing to change Russian behavior in a positive fashion. Taking measures that are in the interests of both countries like renewing the New START nuclear reduction treaty and beginning new talks on curbing their massive nuclear arsenals would be extremely valuable in their own right and might also open the door to negotiations on other issues of mutual concern.

China’s challenge to the U.S is significantly more economic than military and, if those two nations wanted to make the planet a safer place, they would cooperate in addressing the threat of climate change, not launch a new arms race. Genuine reform of the Pentagon’s massive budget is urgently needed, but rest assured that Secretary of Defense Esper’s claims about implementing real changes to save taxpayer dollars while making the U.S. military more effective are the equivalent of bestseller-list Pentagon fiction. The motto of Congress, not to speak of the White House and the public, with respect to the Pentagon’s latest claims of fiscal probity should be “we won’t get fooled again.”

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/09/bestselling-pentagon-fiction/


Pentagon’s New Problem After Years Of Crying Poverty: Spending All The Cash

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Spending all that Cash

Image: Activist Post.com

“LOS ANGLES TIMES”

“After complaining for years that it was starved for cash, the Pentagon now says it may have more money than it can possibly spend.

The windfall is due to a budget deal between Congress and the White House last month that promises an added $80 billion for defense this fiscal year, including a requested $19.6-billion hike for “operations and maintenance”.


“Defense Secretary James N. Mattis pushed for a sharp increase in the account this year, arguing that years of budget wrangling had degraded the military’s readiness to wage war.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis pushed for a sharp increase in the account this year, arguing that years of budget wrangling had degraded the military’s readiness to wage war.

Congress is still finalizing 2018 appropriations levels for the Pentagon, a delay that has generals and admirals worried about spending all the promised cash in the five months remaining before the end of the fiscal year.

“We have a year’s worth of money … and five months to spend it,” Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing.

Critics say that giving the military more money than it can absorb invites waste and abuse, noting that the Pentagon has a long history of overpayments, cost overruns and fiscal shenanigans.

“They cried wolf and now they have more than they can possibly put to use,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information, a policy organization critical of Pentagon budget practices. “I think it’s dangerous because you are going to see a use-it-or-lose-it kind of spending.”

Pentagon officials are worried about giving money back after claiming that mandatory spending caps since 2011, known as a sequester, had affected training, planning and maintenance. There is no guarantee Congress or the White House will prove so generous next year.

Due to Congress’ delay in passing appropriations bills, Pentagon officials are urging lawmakers to allow them to carry over unspent funds into 2019 or shift them to other accounts if they are unable to disburse all the operations and maintenance money by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“We’re going to do our best to spend it in that time frame,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, told Congress at a hearing. “The add is so significant that we’re going to have to look at having the ability to transfer some of that money from account to account.”

By longstanding tradition, the House and Senate appropriations committees require the Pentagon to spend operations and maintenance funds the same year they are provided — or give the money back to the Treasury.

That’s different than other categories of defense spending, like research and development money, which is usually available for up to two years, or procurement funds for buying ships, planes and vehicles, which are provided for up to three years.

At $206billion in 2017, the operations and maintenance account is around 40% of the Pentagon’s annual base budget of $523billion. Its spending has been under tight control since Congress imposed budget caps aimed at reducing the deficit in 2011.

The additional funds are earmarked for stepped-up training, spare parts, fuel and restocking supplies of bombs and bullets, among other items.

The increase comes on top of a decades-old expansion in operations and maintenance funding, according to a report made public in January by the Congressional Budget Office, a federal agency that provides nonpartisan analysis to Congress.

Adjusted for inflation, the account “has grown fairly steadily since 1980 and, over that time, taken up an increasing share of [the Department of Defense’s] base budget,” the report concluded.

From 2000 to 2012 alone, it expanded by $64billion, the report noted, largely to pay for healthcare for military personnel and their families, civilian Defense employees’ salaries, and fuel.

With even more money coming their way, Pentagon officials say it will take time to sign contracts and allocate the additional dollars, perhaps well into next year.

Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that allowing operations funding to be spent through 2019 will “make better use of taxpayer dollars.”

“I can ensure more soldiers are trained — and well-trained — and I think overall we can deliver a much better product,” he added.

“I think it is a completely reasonable request, especially given how late Congress is in passing appropriations this year,” said Todd Harrison, a Pentagon budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy analysis organization. “The rush to spend money before it expires at the end of the fiscal year puts pressure on managers within [the Department of Defense] to sign contracts quickly rather than in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Roger Wicker (R-Ala.) have sponsored a bill that would give the Navy two years to spend operations and maintenance funds. They said the Navy had sought the expanded timeline to help prevent more accidents like the two deadly collisions involving U.S. warships and cargo carriers in the western Pacific last year.

“The significant shortcomings in our Navy’s readiness can have disastrous results,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement referring to the accidents, which involved two guided missile destroyers, the Fitzgerald and the McCain. “The status quo is unacceptable. Congress must provide the funding and oversight required to keep our military safe in peace and effective in combat.”

Unless they substantially trim the Trump administration hike in operations funds, lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committees face a difficult choice between giving the Pentagon more money than it can spend this year or more time to spend it — either of which, critics say, could lead to wasteful spending.

“It makes me question whether there are really plans to put that additional money to work,” Smithberger said.

The appropriations panels have long blocked two-year budgeting, arguing that keeping tight control of operations and maintenance funds through annual appropriations helps prevent wasteful spending.

They are even more reluctant to give Pentagon officials discretion to move money from one item to another without case-by-case congressional approval, another Pentagon request.

“That provides a check on the system to ensure the money is actually needed,” Harrison said. “But the costs of incentivizing reckless spending at the end of each fiscal year far outweigh the benefits of additional oversight.”

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pentagon-budget-20180301-story.html

The Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow

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Pentagon Sacred Cow

“THE NEW YORK TIMES”

“The Pentagon already wastes about one in five of the taxpayer dollars it receives, according to a Pentagon-commissioned study.

And the United States, which has plenty of other urgent needs, already spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined.”


“Health care, Social Security, Medicare and other social programs are all on the chopping block as the Republican-led Congress scrambles to make up for the revenue lost to its planned tax cuts. The Pentagon, however, remains a sacred cow, destined to receive yet more money.

The military budget is now $643 billion. The actual and potential threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Islamic extremists are all serious, but giving the Pentagon another huge increase defies common sense.

The opening bid for the 2018 defense budget came from President Trump, who in May proposed $677 billion. That was $54 billion above a budget cap set by Congress in 2011, after the 2008 financial crisis led to demands for fiscal restraint. Then last month, Congress upped his ante by passing a 2018 military authorization bill that would increase spending to around $700 billion, some $85 billion above the legal cap. Mr. Trump signed that bill into law on Tuesday.

For the moment, that increase is a fiction. Before it can occur, Congress must remove the 2011 caps and appropriate the money. That is the focus of the present budget battle on Capitol Hill. Republican leaders reportedly want to increase military spending by at least Mr. Trump’s original figure of $54 billion and nonmilitary spending by $37 billion. Democratic leaders are insisting on equal increases for both categories.

What’s not clear is that the Pentagon needs any increase until it can get a handle on waste, which a 2015 study estimated at $125 billion, about one-fifth of its budget.

The Pentagon had a virtual blank check after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it went after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and then turned its attention to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Military spending in 2017 is already as high as during the armed forces buildup of the 1980s. The proposed increase, coming after the United States has withdrawn thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, would take it even higher. Mr. Trump, bedazzled by men in uniform and enthralled by displays of weaponry, says more money is needed to build bigger and better forces. And senior commanders have lobbied hard for a big increase to upgrade a military they say lacks readiness, meaning the training and equipment needed to fight.

It’s certainly true that the military, cut back after the Cold War, was strained during the 16 years of near constant war after Sept. 11. Yet the ground troopswho are doing the actual fighting say there is no crisis, according to the analyst Mark Thompson of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight. Other experts say claims of a deteriorating military are exaggerated.

Some increases are understandable, even inevitable. For instance, from 2001 to 2012, the average cost per active service member grew by 61 percent, when adjusted for inflation, because of new and expanded benefits, increasing health care costs and pay raises. Those costs prompted the Pentagon to reduce personnel, says Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But other increases arise from a dysfunctional congressional budget process complicated by lobbyists who woo lawmakers to back unneeded or extravagant weapons. That’s how lawmakers wind up investing in programs that don’t deliver, like the overbudget F-35 jet fighter, and modernizing the nuclear arsenal at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years, when smarter choices would cost less and still keep the country safe.

One encouraging sign is that the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Ellen Lord, is talking to Congress about moving away from high-tech toys that may no longer be relevant or affordable. Another is that the Pentagon has decided to launch its first (believe it or not) audit.

Like other federal agencies, the Pentagon can’t have it all. The military is critical to national security. That does not give it license to be a poor steward of resources and gobble up tax dollars at the expense of other programs.”

Bringing Pentagon Efficiency and Effectiveness to the Forefront

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Image:  “The Project on Government Oversight”

 

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“It is time to explore what can be achieved by bringing business considerations up front to help us navigate the treacherous national security waters ahead.

Archaic and inefficient, the Defense Department’s processes used to acquire and manage resources have ultimately become counterproductive in supporting the military’s war fighting mission.

In James Mattis’ confirmation hearing before the Senate two weeks ago, most of the questions directed at him appropriately focused on threats to the United States. There were thoughtful exchanges on Russia and Iran. And discussions about sequestration. However, one of the greatest threats not receiving appropriate attention is the Pentagon’s current business processes. Archaic and inefficient, the Defense Department’s processes used to acquire and manage resources have ultimately become counterproductive in supporting the military’s warfighting mission.

National defense too often is only discussed in context of size and cost in relation to external threats. While those are unquestionably important considerations, more emphasis must be placed on internal efficiency and effectiveness. Processes that monitor and reward output as opposed to processes that focus exclusively on inputs illuminate opportunities for dramatic improvements in our military posture.

As a former business leader, Donald Trump is well suited to prioritize business processes. And as president, he can direct Defense Secretary James Mattis and his staff to explore what can be achieved by elevating the primacy of efficiencies and effectiveness within the Pentagon.

Reconsidering how the Pentagon collects and uses data to make decisions will be particularly important. Indeed, better and more proficient employment of existing business process technologies and associated data has the potential to enable new capabilities, drive efficiencies, and promote more informed management decisions. Advanced analytics can provide insight into effects of even micro-level changes on readiness, with hope that current reporting could forecast how today’s decisions impact future military readiness.

Defense acquisition – historically the symbol of the slow-to-decide-and-act defense bureaucracy – is another area worthy of review. Pentagon procurers must have the opportunity to embrace and expand on the principles of rapid innovation. Rapid innovation has been adopted by Silicon Valley start-ups through some of our largest corporations, and its model would better attract existing and future military suppliers while providing our military world-class capability at lower costs.

The president and secretary of defense should also pursue measures that shed uniformed military responsibility of non-core services. The Pentagon has already seen success of such measures when they privatized military housing decades ago. There have been several studies over the years identifying other non-core military services that can be done more efficiently.

To move the Pentagon toward best-in-class processes and practices, the president must begin by outlining his support for efficiency and cost-savings reform in his budget. Notably, the budget must advance progress on auditability.

Under the current  plan, all four services must be audit ready by the end of September, with independent auditors in 2018 determining whether they passed or failed. Few are optimistic that the services will return a clean opinion, but the process is vital for prudent fiscal oversight while shedding light on how senior Pentagon leaders can run their organization more effectively. What is more, it provides a step toward full cost accounting which would provide even greater insight by capturing direct and indirect costs, driving decision making accordingly.

Another key provision would be support for eliminating, consolidating or repurposing excess infrastructure and facilities; to include requesting a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). While unpopular in Congress, divesting unneeded infrastructure is basic best business practice and another BRAC round is well overdue. The last round occurred over a decade ago.

Our military and defense leadership is trained to operate in ambiguous and uncertain conditions — and that is necessary and appropriate for the battlefield. But we can and must do better when it comes to process, management, and generally keeping our own house in order. Indeed, a key rationale of strengthening business processes is to reduce the frequency of decision-making-by-gut-feel.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/bringing-pentagon-efficiency-and-effectiveness-to-the-forefront

 

 

The Coming Dogfight An F-35 Or A New Bomber

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F-35 & Bomber

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The two aircraft at the center of the Pentagon’s future-of-war plans are headed for a fierce battle.

Even though one has never faced off against a foreign rival and the other has never flown.

A battle is brewing between the two multibillion-dollar aircraft programs — and the defense companies, lobbyists, and Pentagon offices that back them.

It’s a fight without bombs, missiles, or the chest-thumping roar of 43,000 pounds of jet thrust screaming across the sky. Instead, this clash is unfolding in the shadowy conference rooms of the Pentagon and boardrooms of the world’s largest defense companies. The stakes are high: tens of billions of dollars every year for a decade or more.

That money will fund two of the most sophisticated and expensive planes ever built, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the new Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B. The bomber needs cash to get off the ground and the skittish F-35 camp already is worried the new kids will steal from the huge but finite pot.

“The F-35A and [the bomber] are almost certainly on a collision course,” said Todd Harrison, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The fight will intensify this week when President Barack Obama sends his 2017 budget request to Congress.

The F-35’s price tag looms at $400 billion for thousands of jets to be bought over the next two decades. The 100 planned bombers are expected to cost between $80 billion and $111 billion. The last time the Air Force had such an ambitious plane-building plan, Ronald Reagan was president. But unlike then, defense spending is capped through 2021.

“The problem now is it does not look like we have a buildup of that [Reagan-era] magnitude on the horizon in the defense budget,” Harrison said. “We’re not going to see the budget increase by 30 percent in the near future here.”

Pentagon leaders have expressed unwavering support for both projects.

“[J]ust because it can’t out-turn an F-16, or just because it can’t go as fast, we are absolutely confident that [the] F-35 will be a war-winner,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in November at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, responding to critics of the new jet’s performance. “That is because it is using the machine to make the human make better decisions.”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called the new bomber “a strategic investment in the next 50 years.”

“It demonstrates our commitment to our allies, and our determination to potential adversaries, making it crystal clear that the United States will continue to retain the ability to project power throughout the globe long into the future,” he said in October when the Air Force chose Northrop Grumman to build the plane.

But despite support at the top, a rivalry has emerged within the Air Force ranks, according to Pentagon officials.

“The bomber versus [F-35] fight is one that is taking place inside the building right now,” said the American Enterprise Institute’s Mackenzie Eaglen, referring to the Pentagon. Ultimately, political leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense will have to arbitrate, she said.

The F-35 has been largely insulated from recent years’ spending caps. The Air Force plans to buy the lion’s share of them — 1,763 of the planned 2,443 aircraft — with the Marine Corps and Navy getting the rest.

The Air Force needs to buy new planes, lots of them, in the coming years and not just F-35s and new bombers.

Pentagon leaders have been floating the idea of signing a contract with Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, for more than 450 new F-35s over a three year-period beginning in 2018. Most of those planes would be for the Air Force. Between 2016 and 2020, the Air Force plans to spend more than $25 billion on at least 200 F-35s, according to Pentagon budget documents.

For the bomber, Air Force officials will not disclose the actual yearly budget of the plane, saying that would harm national security. But they have released an estimate that it will cost at least $23.5 billion to develop and at least $56 billion to buy 100 planes.

Meanwhile, work is on hold because the decision to give the job to Northrop Grumman is under protest by Boeing-Lockheed team, the losing bidder. A ruling is expected this month.

A new air refueling tanker, built by Boeing, will also play a tangential role in the fight. But the KC-46 tanker is likely to prompt less infighting because most of the Air Force’s current refueling planes date back to the Eisenhower administration. Plus tankers are needed to gas up different planes in all branches of the U.S. military and allies as well.

“The tanker is in a different category in the debate because the F-35 is useless without the tanker and the LRS-B … still needs tanking,” Harrison said.

The tanker program, valued at more than $40 billion, also is more stable because Boeing, not the taxpayer, must pay for any cost increases. The Air Force is eyeing 60 new tankers costing about $15 billion between 2017 and 2020. “That programs has got a lot more security,” Harrison said.

In 2015, the Air Force spent a total of $12 billion on new planes across the board. It is expected to need $22 billion in 2023 for the F-35, bomber, tanker and new planes for intelligence and other types of special missions, Harrison said.

“The problem now is we’ve got three massive programs that are overlapping almost perfectly in time,” Harrison said. “This is really the perfect storm for aircraft modernization.”

And the main driver of what Harrison calls a “bow wave” is the F-35, bomber and tanker.

With three of the world’s largest defense companies in the ring, that fight will soon spill outside of the Pentagon’s walls and into lobbying campaigns.

“I think that we’re going to see a prolonged battle among these programs and these companies,” Harrison said. “It’s gonna get nasty.”

Lockheed, Northrop and Boeing would not disclose specifically how they plan to market their respective projects in the coming months and years ahead.

But Lockheed said that as cash gets tight, it plans to stay focused on the F-35’s performance.

“Our central objective is to always deliver the very best and most cost effective weapon systems and products to ensure our services have the resources they need for our warfighters,” Lockheed spokesman Joseph LaMarca said in an email. “Lockheed Martin’s relationship with the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Department at large remains strong and we continue to work with them on a daily basis to support their strategic priorities.”

A new round begins on Tuesday when the Pentagon’s budget proposal heads to Capitol Hill, but many more rounds are sure to follow.

“This is going to be a fight that drags out over many years,” Harrison said. “Unless someone loses and a program is canceled. And I don’t think that’s likely.”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2016/02/coming-dogfight-between-f-35-and-new-stealth-bomber/125755/?oref=d_brief_nl

Is the Pentagon Crying Wolf over Its Budget?

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dod-spending-base-graph_575“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“The Pentagon is requesting a $38-billion funding increase in this year’s budget, claiming it can’t provide for national defense without it. However, recent reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) paint a different picture.

U.S. military spending in the last decade is unprecedented.  Furthermore, over the last decade the Pentagon has taken the irresponsible step of paying for some of its base budget requirements with cap-exempt war funding in the Overseas Contingency Account (OCO).

Pentagon funding is well above historical norms, and that the Pentagon is failing to take steps to manage this level of funding without negatively impacting operations and readiness. Moreover, the Pentagon has failed to prepare itself for the possibility of sequestration by fully studying the impact of previous automatic cuts.

According to CRS, in terms of total dollars, the U.S. spends more on the military now than at any time since the Korean War, when it had about double the troops under arms. There have been two major buildups since then, one for Vietnam and the other during the Reagan presidency, both followed by significant drawdowns. In Iraq and Afghanistan however, military spending expanded far more, and contracted far less than in previous conflicts. Since peaking in 2010, it has stayed elevated despite the relatively small scale of operations, and the conclusion of major hostilities.

The $1.4 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the most expensive weapons program in American history—is years behind schedule and has more than doubled in cost. A large part of the problem has been simultaneous testing and production, which requires costly retrofits as new issues are discovered. Since new problems are being discovered on a regular basis, CRS writes (as POGO has advocated) that delaying the program, “could be attractive because the additional time could help ensure that problems would be resolved before production is ramped up.” There are other areas where the Pentagon (with congressional approval) could find savings as well, such as Base Realignment and Closures, changes to the military pay and compensation system, and contracted services.

DoD has also failed to fully study the impact sequestration had in 2013 despite the obvious importance of conducting an internal review and despite knowing that the quality of their response would be assessed by GAO to help understand future funding needs. In just seven months in 2013, DoD cut 7 percent of its budget, a total of $37.2 billion. Yet, according to the GAO, the Pentagon “did not comprehensively document or assess best practices or lessons learned from their experiences.” Some measures taken by the services even drove up costs in the long term, including a deployment delay for a carrier strike group and maintenance delays for Army equipment. In future years, “when some budget flexibilities the department used in 2013 to mitigate the size of reductions may be unavailable…it is all the more important that DOD be able to use the institutional knowledge it gained when implementing sequestration,” writes the GAO.

Our service members deserve full support, but that doesn’t mean rubber-stamping inflated budgets at taxpayers’ expense. If history is any guide, current DoD funding is sufficient, and there are cost-saving measures that should be implemented before spending is increased. If a budget increase is necessary, it should be done within normal accounting procedures, and not through accounting gimmicks like OCO that enable waste and inhibit oversight.

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2015/06/is-pentagon-crying-wolf.html