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Navy Passes the Buck on 'Boomer' Buy

Navy Passes the Buck on 'Boomer' Buy

edited by Charles Knight & Carl Conetta

The Reset Defense Bulletin  is a bi-weekly service of the Project on Defense Alternatives.

Long Range Strike Bomber


CRS reports that the ten-fold increase in funding included in the the FY15 Future Years Defense Budget for the Long Range Strike Bomber (or 'system' of platforms) suggests that much of the development of this bomber has already been completed in classified programs:

Aviation analysts and industry officials confirm CRS's assessment that this funding stream resembles a production program more than a typical development profile. This may indicate that significant LRS-B development has already been completed, presumably in classified budgets. Such prior development would also help explain how the Air Force intends to get the system from a Request for Proposals to initial operational capability in about 10 years, when equally or less-complicated systems like the F-22 and F-35 have taken more than 20." 

'War' Budget Malpractice
In his opening statement at the July 16 HASC hearing on the OCO budget, ranking member Adam Smith stated:

"In the past, OCO funding was restricted to, more or less, things related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That rule, looking at some of these requests and some of the proposed uses of 'in-theater support' funds, clearly no longer applies.  Both the ERI [European Reassurance Initiative] and the CTPF [Combating Terrorism Partnership Fund] could be used for the general procurement of equipment—even in the justification materials provided by DOD, one possible use would be buying helicopters for SOCOM for general 'crisis response'.  We just passed an NDAA out of the House that included funds for just these sorts of purposes."

Rep. Smith and other congresspersons at the hearing named some problems with the OCO budget submission.  However, they gave no indication that they would move to block it -- only warning, in some cases, that this largesse might not last forever.  Of course, it is understood by all that this bugeting malpractice is principally to gratify Pentagon hunger until it can be freed from BCA budget caps -- target date: FY16, following the 2014 mid-term elections.

Navy Passes the Buck on 'Boomer' Buy
For the past twenty-five years the Navy has been aggressively replacing its Cold War-era fleet with new much more expensive ships.  In order to move this process of renewal along it has retired scores of ships before the end of their useful life, in some cases selling used ships to other nations who will benefit from their remaining lives.  This is a very expensive program and it is challenging to fit it within the Navy's shipbuiliding budget.

For years the Navy has worried about the approaching end of life of its fleet of strategic nuclear subs, the Ohio class, which will begin a phased retirement early in the next decade.  Per ususal, the Navy has decided that buying more Ohio class subs is not sufficient; instead it plans on an upgraded, more expensive new model which may rival the cost of an aircraft carrier. 

In order to keep to its plans the Navy has proposed that the new strategic subs get paid for in a special fund which would be the direct responsibility of the Secretary of Defense.  
"Despite bitter differences on many other issues, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have approved language creating a 'national sea-based deterrence fund' outside the regular Navy budget to pay for the Ohio replacement."
As Gordon Adams says, "...everybody seems to be betting that the White House and Congress can be convinced to raise the whole defense budget by the amount needed to buy the 'boomers'..."
And, of course, it seems everbody is betting that the budget caps will be off Federal spending in time to fill this special fund. 

The initial assessment of the status of Iraqi military forces was recently completed by U.S. military advisors dispatched last month.  While the report remains classified, the New York Times reveals that the Iraqi forces are infiltrated with radical Sunni and/or Shiite personnel who might be a threat to any U.S. personnel assigned to advise them.  Major units are now dependent on Shiite militias which have close ties to Iran and its Quds Force.
"'It’s a mess,' said one senior Obama administration official who has been briefed on the draft assessment."

The key role of Shia militia in the present Iraqi government military campaign is confirmed by Abigail Houslohner writing in the Washington Post:

"Iranian-trained ­Shiite militias that accounted for a significant proportion of U.S. combat deaths during the Iraq war are now at the leading edge of the Shiite-led Iraqi government’s battle to repel the Sunni militants..."
Mitchell Prothero writing for McClatchy provides a good summary of how bad the current military situation is for the government of Iraq.  He reports, among other Iraqi government military losses, that ISIS insurgents have seized 52 155mm artillery pieces with GPS guidance.

South China Sea Disputes
Diplomacy is in the fore for the moment regarding the disputed islands and economic zones of the South China Sea. 

Secretary Kerry was in Beijing on the 9th of July for the annual meeting of senior U.S. and Chinese officials known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  President Xi Jinping, speaking at the opening of the meeting, said, “The vast Pacific Ocean has ample space to accommodate two great nations," suggesting to observers that the U.S. should expect continued pressure to moderate its dominant maritime presence in the Pacific.

Kerry sought to reassure his hosts that the U.S. does not seek to 'contain' China.  He pressed China to agree to a Maritime Code of Conduct that has been the object of discussions between ASEAN and China for some years.

China's foreign ministry responded that it was "steadily pushing forward" on talks about the code, but added, that China "hopes 
that countries outside the region strictly maintain their neutrality, clearly distinguish right from wrong and earnestly respect the joint efforts of countries in the region..."  

Meanwhile the Financial Times reports that the U.S. Navy is attempting to "deter... small-scale Chinese moves without escalating particular disputes into a broader military conflict."  Tactics include 'show of force' and more aggressive use of P-8A surveillance aircraft to monitor Chinese naval activity and then publish photographs of Chinese activity around disputed islands.

News and Commentary

Reuters: "Islamic State crushes and coerces on march towards Baghdad," Maggie Fick and Isra' Al-Rubei'i, 22 July 2014.

National Interest: "America's Troubled F-35: Five Ways to Replace It," Robert Farley, 20 July 2014.

The Hill: "Lawmakers leery of counterterrorism fund," Kristina Wong, 20 July 2014.

Washington Post: "Militias that fought U.S. now lead charge against Sunni militants," Abigail Houslohner, 18 July 2014.

The Hill: "Lawmakers accuse DOD of seeking 'slush fund' with $60B war request," Kristina Wong, 16 July 2014.

International Business Times: "China Takes on the United States Over South China Sea," Nigel Wilson, 15 July 2014.

Reuters: "China tells U.S. to stay out of South China Seas dispute," Ben Blanchard, 15 July 2014.

New York Times: "Back from the Brink in Afghanistan," editorial board, 14 July 2014.

The Straights Times: "Keeping US-China channels open," 14 July 2014.

AFP: "US teams complete assessment of Iraqi forces," 14 July 2014.

USA Today: "Global opposition to U.S. drone strikes grows," Jim Michaels, 14 July 2014.

McClatchyDC: "Iraq army on defensive as extent of June debacle becomes clearer," Mitchell Prothero, 14 July 2014.

New York Times: "U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force," Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, 13 July 2014.

New York Times: "Get Ready for Kurdish Independence," Zalmay Khalizad, 13 July 2014.

Financial Times: "Pentagon plans new tactics to deter China in South China Sea," Geoff Dyer, Richard McGregor and Demetri Sevastopulo, 10 July 2014.

Air Force Times:  "CBO: Save $19B by replacing 70k troops with civilians," Andy Medici, 09 July 2014.

Foreign Policy: "Magic Money and Budgetary Malpractice," Gordon Adams, 09 July 2014.

New York Times: "Kerry Presses China to Abide by Maritime Laws to Ease Tensions," Jane Perez, 09 July 2014.

Foreign Policy: "The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane to Nowhere," Kate Brannen, 08 July 2014.

Breaking Defense: "Navy Finally Admits It Can't Afford Fleet, Esp. New SSBNs," Sydney J Freedberg, Jr., 08 July 2014.

Reuters: "Kerry says U.S. not seeking to contain China," 08 July 2014.

War is Boring: "American Aircraft Carriers Will Peak in 2024," David Axe, 07 July 2014.

Defense News: "U.S. Navy's Cruiser Problem," Christorpher P. Cavas, 06 July 2014.

Seapower:  "U.S. Navy To Retire 17 ships in 2015," Richard Burgess, 03 July 2014.

Roll Call: "Armed Services Committees Look to Make Fiscal Room for Naval Shipbuilding Plans," Frank Oliveri, 10 June 2014.

Inside the Navy: "House Committee Looks to Create Separate Fund for Ohio Replacement," Lee Hudson, 05 May 2014.


Key Reports, Official Sources, Journal Articles, and Books

House Armed Services Committee: "Ranking Member Adam Smith's Statement at OCO Hearing," 16 July 2014. "U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Outcomes of the Strategic Track," 14 July 2014.

USNI News: "Navy's 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan for Fiscal Year 2015," 07 July 2014.

CSIS: "The New 'Great Game' in the Middle East: Looking Beyond the 'Islamic State' and Iraq, Anthony H. Cordesman, 09 July 2014.

Stimson Center: "A Step Backward, or More to Go?," Russell Rumbaugh and John Cappel, 03 July 2014.

CRS: "Budget Highlight: Air Force Long Range Strike Bomber," Jeremiah Gertler, 02 July 2014.

CBO:  "Approaches to Reducing Federal Spending on Military Pay and Benefits," Carla Tighe Murray, 30 June 2014.

CRS: "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program," Jeremiah Gertler, 29 April 2014.

CRS: "
Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress," Ronald O'Rourke, 08 April 2014.


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