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Thread: $1 Trillion Pentagon Budget Cut Is Possible but Not Wise: View

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    $1 Trillion Pentagon Budget Cut Is Possible but Not Wise: View

    $1 Trillion Pentagon Budget Cut Is Possible but Not Wise: View
    By the Editors Nov 28, 2011 5:00 AM GMT+0700

    Before the body of the congressional budget supercommittee was even cold, we heard outcries over the Pentagon budget cuts mandated by its demise.

    “I will not be the Armed Services Committee chairman who presides over the crippling of our military,” vowed Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, a California Republican, on Tuesday.

    None of us wants him to be. The supercommittee failure will mean some $500 billion to $600 billion in military cuts over the next decade, on top of $450 billion the Pentagon has already agreed to. In addition, the budget-cutting mechanism called for by the law is seriously flawed when it comes to military spending, demanding an even cut across all programs, rather than allowing the Pentagon discretion. Fortunately, Congress is unlikely to allow things to play out that way, and in the next 13 months legislators will argue over a way to let the Pentagon out of the straitjacket.

    That does not, and should not, mean that the military won’t play a serious role in the effort to bring the nation’s finances under control. Although we agree that reducing projected spending by $1 trillion over the decade is very worrisome, we feel that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta overstated the matter in calling it a “doomsday” scenario that “invites aggression.”

    What would $1 trillion in cuts look like? Several folks -- the Congressional Budget Office, the Simpson-Bowles commission and Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, in his “Back in Black” deficit reduction plan -- have suggested cuts to programs that would get the Pentagon under the wire. This potpourri of proposals has been collated and tallied by Robert Levinson, an analyst with our sister operation Bloomberg Government, who came up with following menu of potential savings that totals $1.2 trillion over fiscal 2013 to 2021. Choose wisely:

    -- Reduce funding for National Guard’s antidrug program. ($225 million)

    -- Eliminate Army’s Global Combat Support computer system. ($469.9 million)

    -- Shut down Joint IED Defeat Organization by 2017. ($1.2 billion)

    -- Terminate Navy’s vertical-takeoff drone. ($1.6 billion)

    -- Cut some medical research not tied to military need. ($2.3 billion)

    -- Close elementary schools on U.S. bases. ($4.9 billion)

    -- Cut most college tuition assistance. ($5.3 billion)

    -- Cancel the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. ($5.3 billion)

    -- Retire two aircraft carriers. ($5.8 billion)

    -- Delay fielding of Army Ground Combat Vehicle until 2025. ($6.3 billion)

    -- Reduce travel expenses by 15 percent. ($6.9 billion)

    -- Increase cuts to contractors who support headquarters staffs. ($8.7 billion)

    -- Terminate V-22 Osprey vertical-takeoff aircraft. ($9 billion)

    -- Consolidate and raise prices at commissaries and exchanges. ($9.1 billion)

    -- Reduce purchases of Virginia Class submarines to one per year from two. ($12.2 billion)

    -- Cut facilities maintenance by 15 percent. ($13.9 billion)

    -- Cap increases in military pay at 0.5 percent below inflation for five years. ($15.3 billion)

    -- Reduce Marine Corps strength to 145,000 from 182,000. ($21 billion)

    -- Retire 6 Ticonderoga Class destroyers. ($27.2 billion)

    -- Cut housing and construction costs by 20 percent. ($33.1 billion)

    -- Cancel planned purchase of nine Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. ($33.1 billion)

    -- Replace retirement program with 401(k) system for new enlistees. ($37 billion)

    -- Cancel the F-35 jet program. ($43.2 billion)

    -- Cut planned purchase of Littoral Combat Ships to 12 from 42. ($46.2 billion)

    -- Reduce missile-defense spending by 70 percent. ($67 billion)

    -- Reduce Army strength to 430,000 by 2021 from projected 554,000 in 2016. ($70.7 billion)

    -- Cut research and development by 10 percent. (Savings: $73.1 billion)

    -- Reduce health benefits and increase fees for retirees. ($134.2 billion)

    -- Cut civilian workforce by 30 percent. ($162 billion)

    -- Cut nuclear arsenal to 1,000 warheads, which allows reductions in missiles, submarines and bombers. ($180.4 billion)

    -- Curtail small purchases such as ammunition and computers across the board. ($212 billion)

    How practical is this list? Some measures are fairly obvious: The problem-plagued Osprey can be replaced by MH-60 helicopters; our high-quality current generation of F-16 and F- 18 jet fighters makes Lockheed-Martin Corp.’s (LMT) F-35 an unnecessary luxury; the vertical-takeoff drone is a lemon; medical benefits for retirees are overgenerous compared with the private sector; U.S.-based military children can attend local public schools. (There are also programs not part of the budget discussion that deserve scrutiny, such as the Ford Class supercarrier and continued purchases of M1 Abrams tanks.)

    Other cuts make sense when viewed in context. The tuition- assistance program sounds good, but is inferior to the newest G.I. Bill benefits available to troops. (The Veterans’ Administration picks up that tab.)

    But mostly these are tough calls. The Littoral Combat Ship is very vulnerable to attack, but could be an important vessel for military and humanitarian missions in the Indian and Pacific oceans, where China has been increasingly projecting its power. Limits to pay raises could harm recruitment. And, of course, cutting the size of the Marine Corps and Army would be very difficult to sell politically, and can be rejected out of hand by the president.

    The bigger point, as we have argued before, is that making the size of the Pentagon’s budget dependent on factors that have nothing to do with national security is an odd way to go about things. As Congress, inevitably, plans its end run around the automatic cuts, it should consider the list above not based on dollar signs but on what we really, truly need to keep the nation secure. If that doesn’t add up to $1 trillion in cuts, lawmakers should look elsewhere for increased savings and revenue.

    $1 Trillion Pentagon Budget Cut Is Possible but Not Wise: View - Bloomberg


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    Patron The Black Ghost's Avatar
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    I guess the real question is who is the threat now and what do we actually need to defend ourselves? Sure, all of this stuff is cool, but most of it is just that--the pet projects of a lot of people and companies who have a vested interest in greater military spending. The vast majority of this stuff doesnt ever get used and has no use.

    Our defense budget is 10x the size of China's, the second biggest military spender on the planet. We have 7 active fleets, hundreds of overseas bases and whole fleets of mothballed aircraft (which cost us hundreds of billions of dollars) sitting around in scrapyards. The massive maintainence cost for our military is ridiculous. I'd say that 1 trillion isnt even scratching the surface. Pay our vets, pay our national guard, minimize our army. That should be the priority.
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    Senior Contributor Red Team's Avatar
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    I'm almost pretty certain 1000 nuclear warheads is more than enough to deter our enemies.

    We could hold back on the JSF for a bit, I wouldn't agree with cutting it completely, because our current aircraft have to be replaced at some point to keep up with the little arms race we've gotten ourselves into with the Chinese and Russians. Would hate to have the best Air Force in the world to have serious competition...

    And I'm not terribly familiar with the system, but haven't the Osprey's major problems been mostly fixed?

    Reducing size of military manpower seems to be the best bet if we want to keep our neat toys, but vice-versa is needed to maintain manpower. Pentagon's choice.
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    Yeah, but what happens when those couple hundred thousand soldiers you fire are now unemployed civilians?
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Black Ghost View Post
    We have...whole fleets of mothballed aircraft (which cost us hundreds of billions of dollars) sitting around in scrapyards. The massive maintainence cost for our military is ridiculous.
    Just a nitpick, those aircraft aren't sitting in scrapyards and the dollar amount isn't quite as high as that. The vast majority of those aircraft are in protective storage for future use, sale or as a priceless source of spare parts for the existing aircraft inventory.

    According to the AMARG website "[The] combination of parts reclaimed and aircraft withdrawn represents a return on taxpayer investment of more than $1.07 billion, nearly $11 returned for every dollar spent at AMARG.

    The Storage Division prepares aircraft for short-and long-term storage and maintains them while in storage. These comprehensive preservation and maintenance practices safeguarded more than $33 billion in aerospace assets and made possible the subsequent reactivation of many of these weapon systems.
    "

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    Yeah, but what happens when those couple hundred thousand soldiers you fire are now unemployed civilians?
    That's the thing. No workaround beyond cutting toys. Pentagon's got to get it's priorities straight, they can't have both anymore.
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    Okay, say you cut the Osprey (just as an example). Pilots, mechanics, crew chiefs, and all the logistics/admin that support the Osprey units are now doing nothing. So you shift them to other units. You now have bloated units with 2 or 3 people doing the same job one person could do, which means you're paying 2 or 3 times to get the same amount of work (or less) done.
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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    I don't know about the other proposal as they are too military to me, but the one bellow makes no sense:

    -- Close elementary schools on U.S. bases. ($4.9 billion)
    The kids still need to go to school, teachers, classrooms... Is it really a saving?
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    The kids can just go to schools in the vicinity of the base, as long as they factor in increased costs to the soldiers' families in the form of transportation to and from the school and tuition.

    One thing you have to remember is that in the US, the armed forces are all volunteers. The armed forces need to be competitive or the soldiers will go elsewhere. In a conscript army like the IDF you can pay your combat soldiers 710 NIS (<$190) a month and your REMF half that and get away with it. Try offering a volunteer soldier a contract for $190 a month, even if you include meals and free public transportation like the IDF and see how well that goes for you
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    I agree with most of the list.

    A few that stand out that I'm against.

    Don't cancel the V-22. The mantra that keeps coming up about the SH-60 being able to do the same job has been proven wrong time after time. It doesn't and it can't.

    The Osprey has been flying combat missions for a few years now. The thing works, and the Marines and Air Force love them.

    Most important is that, unlike say cutting the f-35, the Osprey is replacing Ch-46s. Those birds are old. First produced in 1961 and last one rolled off the assembly line in 1971. Its not like we can slap on a few upgrades or make new airframes, as could be done with F-15/16/18s. The youngest Phrog is 40 years old. They have to be replaced. The only solution if the Osprey is canceled is to design a new bird. No money saved.

    Others, College Assistance. Quit paying 100%. We use to pay 50% and that was back before the GI Bill. Since the GI Bill can be used while on active duty have the service member use that benefit.

    Don't cut some medical research that doesn't apply to the military. Cut it all.
    The general population doesn't realize that Breast cancer research is one of the highest funded med programs in the military.


    Cut more civilian on base jobs. The chief ones being grounds maintenance and messhall. Back in the day we cut the grass around the Bn area. We provided cooks and messmen in our chowhalls. 30 days of mess duty or a month on the S-4 working party isn't going to cause a serviceman to lose critical skill or miss essential training that can't be scheduled for another time.

    Another one is facilities maint. By law, the same facilities/base engineers that rebuilt Iraq and are building schools and infrastructure can not work on stateside buildings. They not being licensed contractors in the State. Mostly liability issues. Change the law. or Hire contractors to oversee the jobs with the servicemen doing the job. And have that time spent apply towards a journeyman license.

    The other civilian jobs that need to be cut are the outside contractors providing operational support. Why do we need civilian companies doing intel work? Our military is the biggest its been in decades. Did we flub the force structure? Why do we have civilian contractors providing security to General Officers and bases? The services use to do that themselves. Many more places where Civvie Creap has occurred. Do away with them all.

    Base Schools Not sure about other bases, but the local one Tyndall, gave up its school years ago. The county runs it. They provide teachers, buses. Dependant students can go to that school or any of the other schools in the county.

    One of the problems with giving up a school is that people on on base housing do not contribute to school funding. The bases would need to pay the county for the students they ship off base to school.
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    in my amateur military aviation view, the F-35 and Osprey should stay

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gun Grape View Post
    .

    Don't cancel the V-22. The mantra that keeps coming up about the SH-60 being able to do the same job has been proven wrong time after time. It doesn't and it can't.

    The Osprey has been flying combat missions for a few years now. The thing works, and the Marines and Air Force love them.

    Most important is that, unlike say cutting the f-35, the Osprey is replacing Ch-46s. Those birds are old. First produced in 1961 and last one rolled off the assembly line in 1971. Its not like we can slap on a few upgrades or make new airframes, as could be done with F-15/16/18s. The youngest Phrog is 40 years old. They have to be replaced. The only solution if the Osprey is canceled is to design a new bird. No money saved.
    Totally agree; this is probably the ONE weapons system we can't afford to cut. As GG said, it's proven, it works, it's basically twice as effective as a similarly-sized rotorcraft, and the AF and the Marines can't get enough of them. The philosophy behind the V-22 is THE future of combat logistics, like it or not; battlefield logisticians have been DREAMING of an aircraft with the Osprey's capabilities for decades, and they're finally getting it.

    We could probably afford (at least temporarily, anyway) to suspend F-35 procurement, since it's basically an airframe in search of a mission right now (though I'm sure there will be a need for it in the future), but the V-22 is the present and future of combat ops, it should NOT be cut at all.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    -- Retire two aircraft carriers. ($5.8 billion)

    (There are also programs not part of the budget discussion that deserve scrutiny, such as the Ford Class supercarrier...)
    The only thing that would make any sense would be to retire the Enterprise now, before her next deployment. Any other carrier retirements would be throwing away time and money already spent on their RCOH.

    The Ford-class is needed to preserve the industrial base and talent at Newport News. Even the mere slowing down of carrier construction after the end of the Cold War had an adverse effect on costs due to the disruption in labor pipeline.

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    I don't think this is the right thing to go about things. Mandatory budget cuts will just make the cuts that actually happen not well considered and explained. They should rather think about the strategic outlook of the pentagon budget. What do they need and what is not that important anymore and could (or should) be cut?

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    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    Many wise comments here. Overall, however, no cuts should be made that weaken our security, hamper our ability to keep the sea lanes open, threaten our trade, and prevent us from honoring our international treaty obligations.

    Even something as small maintaining troop moral can have an impact on the larger picture.

    Waste and inefficiency should be the first target, and there's still plenty of it, especially in military contracting, which remains a money pit due to poor oversight and gold-plating. Contracting for civilian services is different from civilians working directly for the military in base maintenance, clerical, and administrative jobs which can't be efficiently filled by military people who are constantly rotating between duty stations.

    IMHO Congress better get on a stick and find out fast what we need and don't need and not make any major cuts beyond those already mandated.
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