Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a series of sweeping shifts in the way the Pentagon will pay for new programs and equipment Monday.
Gates, who set out the guidelines in the Pentagon's 2010 budget request, said he was hoping to reshape the priorities of the defense establishment and profoundly reform the way his department operates.
The three main priorities of the budget recommendation, Gates said, would be improving support for members of the military, veterans and their families, refocusing the military on winning the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and making a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition, and contracting.
Our struggles to put the defense bureaucracies on a war footing these past few years have revealed underlying flaws in the priorities, cultural preferences, and reward structures of America's defense establishment - a set of institutions largely arranged to prepare for conflicts against other modern armies, navies, and air forces, Gates said. Programs to directly support, protect, and care for the man or woman at the front have been developed ad hoc and funded outside the base budget. Put simply, until recently there has not been an institutional home in the Defense Department for today's warfighter.
To support the troops and their families, Gates is calling for an $11 billion increase in the base Pentagon budget for personnel, adding $400 million to funds for medical research and development with an additional $300 million increase in funding for traumatic brain injuries, and increasing by $200 million funds for child care, spousal support, lodging, and education.
Many of these programs have been funded in the past by supplemental, Gates said. We must move away from ad hoc funding of long-term commitments. Thus, we have added money to each of these areas and all will be permanently and properly carried in the base defense budget. Together they represent an increase in base budget funding of $13 billion from last year.
Gates is also calling for a $2 billion increase in the military's information gathering and surveillance efforts, including fielding 50 Predator drones and adding money to support helicopter maintenance personnel and flight crews.
We will also spend $500 million more in the base budget than last year to increase our capacity to field and sustain more helicopters - a capability that is in urgent demand in Afghanistan, Gates said. Today, the primary limitation on helicopter capacity is not airframes but shortages of maintenance crews and pilots. So our focus will be on recruiting and training more Army helicopter crews.
Although much of the budget focuses on addressing the emerging challenges of guerrilla wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said he would not take his eye off of requirements that might be needed to fight a full-scale war.
Even as we begin to shift resources and institutional weight towards supporting the current wars and other potential irregular campaigns, the United States must still contend with the security challenges posed by the military forces of other countries - from those actively hostile to those at strategic crossroads, he said.
He added, Last year's National Defense Strategy concluded that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term given current trends. This year's budget deliberations focused on what programs are necessary to deter aggression, project power when necessary, and protect our interests and allies around the globe.
To that end, Gates said he planned to double the purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to 30 in 2010, while cutting off future purchases of the F-22 and retiring 250 of the Air Force's oldest aircraft.
Gates also emphasized the need for a dramatic change in the way the DoD purchases equipment.
This department must consistently demonstrate the commitment and leadership to stop programs that significantly exceed their budget or which spend limited tax dollars to buy more capability than the nation needs, he said. Our conventional modernization goals should be tied to the actual and prospective capabilities of known future adversaries - not by what might be technologically feasible for a potential adversary given unlimited time and resources.
Gates said the department would also realistically estimate program costs, provide budget stability for the programs we initiate, adequately staff the government acquisition team, and provide disciplined and constant oversight
To that end, Gates said he was scrapping a proposal to build a new fleet of presidential helicopters, axing a proposal for a dedicated combat search and rescue helicopter, trimming the Missile Defense Agency by $1.4 billion and cutting back on the production of a new type of Navy destroyer in favor or restarting production on existing models.
Gates also said he plans to significantly restructure the Army's Future Combat Systems programs, aimed at upgrading military equipment and capabilities across the entire force.
I am troubled by the terms of the current contract, particularly its very unattractive fee structure that gives the government little leverage to promote cost efficiency, Gates said. Because the vehicle part of the FCS program is currently estimated to cost over $87 billion, I believe we must have more confidence in the program strategy, requirements, and maturity of the technologies before proceeding further.
He added, Accordingly, I will recommend that we cancel the vehicle component of the current FCS program, re-evaluate the requirements, technology, and approach - and then re-launch the Army's vehicle modernization program, including a competitive bidding process. . Because of its size and importance, we must get the acquisition right, even at the cost of delay.
A number of previous Defense Secretaries have attempted similar overhauls of the DoD acquisition process only to run afoul of lawmakers intent on keeping certain programs alive and supporting jobs in their home districts, and Gates acknowledged he could face a difficult challenge in coming months.
This budget presents an opportunity - one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity; to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements - those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead, Gates said.
He added, It is one thing to speak generally about the need for budget discipline and acquisition and contract reform. It is quite another to make tough choices about specific systems and defense priorities based solely on the national interest and then stick to those decisions over time. To do this, the president and I look forward to working with the Congress, industry, and many others to accomplish what is in the best interest of our nation as a whole.
The total budget proposal for 2010 comes in at roughly $534 billion, or almost $664 billion when the costs for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are included.
The present DoD budget comes in slightly above $513 billion, or around $655 billion including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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