Tuesday, February 02, 2010

DoD 2011 Budget

Yesterday President Obama released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011 to Congress and the public.
Even before arriving on Capitol Hill it had come under heavy fire from many Members who oppose the Administration’s $3.1 trillion blueprint. The thrust of this submission focuses on domestic affairs, spurring the formation of new or the expansion of existing small businesses that traditionally are regarded as the crucible for creating jobs and expanding the economy.

Once again, this budget proposal exempts the Department of Defense (DoD) from virtually any restraints on discretionary spending. The DoD request for FY2011 is $708.3 billion. Of this total, $548.9 billion will go toward maintaining the “institutional structure” – e.g., pay and housing for military personnel and families; training; posts, ports, and bases; developing and buying equipment such as helicopters and attack aerial drones. This is a $18.1 billion increase from this year’s $530.8 spending on the “institutional” military.

The Pentagon is asking for $159.3 billion for “operations” – the conduct of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – for fiscal year 2011 which begins October 1, 2010. This would be slightly less than the $162.6 billion being consumed this fiscal year – and that assumes that Congress will approve the Pentagon’s share ($33 billion) of the pending 2010 supplemental legislation to deploy 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Of perhaps more interest today was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revelation that he had replaced the officer in charge of fielding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and was withholding performance bonuses of $614 million to the plane’s builder Lockheed Martin.

This was the second year in a row that Gates took on the military aircraft builders. Last year he ended the F-22 production at 182 planes despite intense lobbying by the Air Force and its congressional and industry backers. At more than $350 million per copy the Pentagon simply could not afford any more. The F-35 has a prospective project cost overrun of $16 billion, but the fact that eight other countries have invested in the program gives the F-35 a degree of immunity to cancellation.

In conjunction with the budget, the Pentagon submitted the latest Quadrennial Defense Review which addresses future strategies. The Pentagon’s long-standing position that it has to be able to fight and win two conventional wars simultaneously now calls for a structure and strategy that would enable the application of varying levels of military power against countries and groups who oppose U.S. interests around the globe. What is puzzling is how this is different from what the armed forces do today: conduct conventional if limited warfare against hostile countries and groups.

One other mission that is also getting more attention is military aid in the wake of devastating natural disasters. The question is how much this or future administrations will be willing to commit not for war but for responding to the effects of national disasters.