marionblakeyc17farnboroughWhen members of Congress return from their August recess, their plates will be very full. Our legislators need to fund the government for the next fiscal year, which starts October first. Although it may seem like a simple task to keep the government operating, a potential partisan collision over raising the debt ceiling once again presents the threat of a government shutdown. Even if the two parties and two chambers can agree and prevent this from happening, Congress’s recent habit of punting on appropriations bills and funding the government through a Continuing Resolution limits implementation of important national security programs and continues to delay new starts.

This is no way to run a great nation – much less defend it. After several months of sequestration, painful national security impacts are being felt due to the joint Congressional-White House decision to indiscriminately and severely cut defense spending over a nine-year period.

The Pentagon furloughed 650,000 civilian employees that have had very negative impacts, such as delayed testing schedules for the F-35 program and diminishing the work capacity of personnel. Reductions to Army training, Navy ship deployments and Air Force flying time have degraded military readiness. Thirteen air squadrons were recently grounded for three months from April to July.

In addition, the national security industrial base supply chain is beginning to hurt. In May and June, AIA surveyed small and mid-sized supplier companies and found that 88 percent have already experienced negative impacts from budget cuts. Of those, 84 percent have seen reduced revenues or profits, 62 percent have reduced production levels in the past two years, 60 percent saw contract postponements and cancellations, 49 percent had to institute hiring freezes, and 45 percent were already forced to lay off employees.

As we move forward with sequestration, the impacts will only grow. Given the way DoD chose to fill a portion of the sequestration hole in Fiscal Year 2013 using unobligated funds, some programs are potentially two years behind schedule. The impacts will get worse in Fiscal Year 2014 when we won’t have the cushion of unobligated balances to fall back on as we did this fiscal year. All the while personnel costs continue to grow at unprecedented levels.

Beginning October 1st, absent a bipartisan budget solution, the Pentagon will have to absorb an additional $52 billion in cuts, hitting everything from procurement, research and development, readiness operations and personnel. The harsh reality is that DoD already has more than paid its due. Defense spending represents only 18 percent of our national budget but, under the Budget Control Act, the Pentagon has absorbed 50 percent of the reductions to date. Combining sequestration with budget cuts already mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, we’re staring at nearly a trillion dollars in defense cuts over the next nine years.

On the last day of July, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlined the work of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, something that should greatly concern everyone who cares about our national security. The review, amongst other things, laid out two different potential approaches if sequestration had to be implemented over the long-haul. The approaches, said Hagel, contain trade-offs “between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons and Marine battalions – and capability, our ability to modernize weapons systems to maintain our military’s technological edge.” The Washington Post called on the administration to pay more attention to the damage of extensive defense cuts, concluding:

“The country’s defense is a core responsibility of the federal government, and its armed forces are critical to the nation’s ability to exert leadership, maintain alliances, defend human rights and preserve the nation’s safety.”

So what can be done now to repeal the sequestration cuts? Although both political parties still seem to be at a stalemate, I believe there is an underlying unease in Washington about what these cuts are doing to our national security capabilities. This unease could create the political conditions necessary for real negotiations to end this mess.

Some basic facts may help our lawmakers focus on a way out. Later this fall, Congress will vote again on raising the debt ceiling, the very issue that created the budget crisis. The critical need is for a solution that addresses our long-term debt and deficit issues without risking investments in our national security and other important priorities such as modernization of the nation’s air transportation system and development of next generation weather satellites.

Then there is the issue of what continuing sequestration will mean for our military capabilities in the long run. Underinvestment in procurement and research and development will inevitably lead to a loss of capability in the defense industrial base as companies shift resources into more stable and profitable business lines.

For example, for the first time in American aviation history, we have no new manned military aircraft in the development phase. This situation began in 2010, and if we do not begin programs like the long range strike bomber soon, we could very easily lose the ability to design and develop new manned aircraft.

Without investment and programs to work on, our defense industrial base could well lose the ability to fill critical requirements of our national security strategy. That loss could harm our ability to equip our men and women in uniform with best technology. We have an obligation to our warfighters to provide them with equipment that tilts the battlefield in their favor. But we need stable, predictable and adequate budgets to fulfill that obligation.

It is my hope that those members of Congress, who rank budget cutting as a higher priority than the need to provide safety and security to the American people will see the train wreck ahead and begin to soften their position. I also hope that those members who are unwilling to even consider modest alterations to entitlement programs – which will help pave the way for a grand bargain – will recognize that these programs are unsustainable, and demographic realities will compel reforms. We are now six months into a policy that has repercussions for our national interests that will only get worse with time.

Those who care deeply about national security should keep communicating with our elected officials in Congress and the White House about the need for a solution to sequestration before it truly is too late.

Marion Blakey, a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, is president and CEO of the powerful Aerospace Industries Association.



  • Jack Everett

    Privatizing the military duties are whats diminishing the military. The military industrial complex has tied itself to corporate pigs that continue to waste our money while our combat troops go without pay.Their is billions to ave if the military industrial complex was brought back under control.

    I’m glad my military service was something to be proud of and we fought real enemies not murdered innocent people for corporate profits.

  • Major Lee Gassole

    “When members of Congress return from their August recess, there plates will be very full.” THEIR, not THERE. Really?

    • Don Bacon

      With all that pork on their plates there they’re easily confused.

  • Don Bacon

    Repeated for emphasis:
    “Marion Blakey. . . is president and CEO of the powerful Aerospace Industries Association.”

  • PhDEE

    Marion Blakey is president and CEO of the “I failed third grade because I don’t know how homonyms work” coalition.

  • PhDEE
  • PolicyWonk

    The HoR has had their plates full for years, and are the lousiest performing congress in US history. That they’ve repeatedly wasted the taxpayers time and money voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (39 or 40 times, as last count) despite it being the law of the land, and deemed constitutional by the SCOTUS is simply disgusting.

    And for the GOP to think for even a second that they are the only party that can stymie this POTUS without repercussions is short-sighted, and frankly less than smart.

    The GOP “leadership” of today allied themselves with the detritus of American politics for short-term political gain, and are now held hostage by an obstinate few to the point to where they couldn’t even pass the farm bill. Its long past the time for them to get with the program get this nation moving again.
    But as long as the same “leadership” that destroyed this nations economy, international reputation, and started two wars they didn’t have a clue of how to finish remains at all influential, this nation will remain in serious trouble.

    • Don Bacon

      ACA is the “law of the land” — except when Obama alters it by executive order, as when he first waived the law for 500 corporations and then delayed its implementation a year for corporations.

      The American people don’t like the law’s provisions forcing them to purchase a product many of them don’t need, with penalties if they don’t, so why shouldn’t the GOP try to kill it?

      • PolicyWonk

        Here’s a few reasons: First, you’d be hard pressed to find a republican who didn’t support the ACA when it was the brainchild of the so-called “Heritage Foundation” (providers of truly lousy advice to the previous administration). The only substantive difference now, is that it took Obama to get it passed, making it the law of the land.

        Second, The ACA was already implemented (99% of it) under Romney in Massachusetts, where we pay less money for higher quality health care than any other state in the union – and costs are still on schedule to drop further as the health care paying organizations undergo the same capitation requirements they require healthcare providers to adhere to.

        The GOP’s problem is that they simply resent losing the election to a black dude after they caused more damage to the US economy, our international reputation, and national security in 8 years than the USSR was able to accomplish in 60. The GOP has been trying to lie their way out of it ever since – and allied itself with the political detritus of American society in return for short-term political gain, and now can’t even pass the farm bill.

        They can’t lead; won’t follow; and won’t get out of the way.

  • M&S

    We have a new jet that its less than five years away from IOC with all services.
    Now is the time to decide how we pay for 400 billion dollars worth of Joint Strike Fighter.
    An easy way to begin would be to retire all Block 25.30.40 F-16s and offer those with the latest CCIP standard upgrades to whatever friend cannot afford to go with the F-35.
    There is going to be a WHOLE SLEW of Air Forces which don’t have the 150 million dollars to throw at a less-than-best-LO export version of the F-35 but who would dearly love to update their existing F-16A or even Mirage 3/2000 and F-5E fleets.
    Similarly, if their are any early 220 engine F-15Es are out there (can’t haul 12 Mk.82 to refueling altitudes, can’t carry self-defense HARM, can’t PDF target that HARM) they should go. This will cut way back on the F-15E modernization effort.
    I would further state that about 80% of the F-15A/C fleet is also not worth updating to ‘Golden Eagle’ standard with the APG-63/V3/APG-82 as it has a collosal RCS and again _no practical means_ to defend itself against surface threats because the outer wings are too weak (we lose a wingtip once or twice per year) and too aeroacoustically harsh to mount ordnance to the outer pylons and of course the inner ones are dedicated to 610 tanks. If you are flying barn door to radar and cannot do what the Blk.50 F-16C does so well in terms of carrying both A2A and SEAD ordnance plus the targeting capability to accurately use it (ASQ-213 and Sniper) then you have no business being a penetrating OCA aircraft. If you are a HAVCAP or DCA machine, you are close enough to a tanker or an airbase not to need to worry about longrange flying capabilities or short range onboard radar (indeed, the F-16C MIDS has better capability than the few F-15Cs which have datalink).
    A drastic measure might be to retire -all- F-15s in the next year or two as a move to allow an upgraded Blk.30+ F-22C to be reentered into production.
    Similar efforts should be considered to retire ALL F/A-18Cs and Harrier IIs, with early model F/A-18Es being transitioned to the Marines as interim birds with full CVN capabilities ‘just in case’ we decide to axe the F-35B as it well and truly deserves to be.
    Rather than move single-service towards the UCLASS, I would suggest that we accept that there are now going to be _three tiers_ of tactical airpower in this nation. With the F-35 and late lot F/A-18F being the mid-level (400 each = 1,200 overall) and the F-22 (300?) being the high and ‘all others’ being UCAVs (700, shared between services, all with JPALS capability to deploy afloat or ashore).

    This would fall in line with Congressional guidance going back to 2001 which states that 1/3rd of all strike aircraft will be unmanned by 2010.
    And this of course would also satisfy the ‘no new tactical aircraft under development’ complaint, though it would not be manned.
    Finally, I honestly believe we should look at a separate homeland defense aircraft for intercepting airway zombies and providing flight training hours to units which should absorb the younger of any skilled Core Aviator population which wants to move into the JSF or F-22 communities.
    Higher manning ratios is a good idea for sustaining sortie rates at extending ranges with reliable and relatively young airframes.
    But. With high manning ratios comes a penalty as added expenditure of limited (stealth) assets fatigue lives.
    So. You buy another 300-400 T-50s and supply 4-6 per squadron. They have similar cockpit layout to the aircraft they emulate and they have _zero_ weapons systems, all such being ‘virtual’ through a datalink network that reports real time GPS positions and treats sensor acquisition envelopes accordinging.
    This gives you the ability to fly the wings off of relatively cheap, 25 million dollar, aircraft, and husband the fatigue states of your HDLD combat assets while also conserving your Go To War operating bands and waveforms.
    If you equip these secondary training aircraft with basic Sidewinder+HMD capability, they also can do the Homeland Defense mission by networking with ground radar as GCI steer during those periods when your warfighters are off killing bad guys in far away places.
    The T-38 is old and despite the recent 38C and PMP efforts, it is simply not compatible with teaching young pilots fresh out of the JPATS the realities of tactical air combat in jets which will do most of their fighting supersonically at BVR before downshifting to high-AOA superman nose points to clean up residual targets.
    IF we could see our way forward to a limited window of vulnerability in the 2015-2020 period (before China becomes a real challenge in the post-2025 timeframe).
    IF we are committed to being second best (by a long ways) in terms of absolute aerodynamic performance in the F-35 program.
    We could dump the majority of the teen fighters, use late model F-16 and early model F-22 as a bridge force.
    And push a lot more money towards tacair by essentially admitting that strategic bombardment’s days are coming to an end as the USN moves smartly towards Hyflight and HSSW type surface launch capabilities with ranges on the order of 1,200-2,300nm and response times measured in 30-40 minute intervals.
    If we also dumped the B-1B and B-52, that would leave -some- money to be pointed towards an LRSB platform which could (and should) be constrained by regional rather than strategic reach and capable of delivering a LOT (50-100, with a dedicated rack) of SDB-II type small munitions and perhaps only 4-8 of the heavier, 2,500lb class, (nuclear or JDAM) equivalents.
    I think what we’re really looking for here is something closer to a hypersonic B-58 equivalent with the range + speed to fly up from Diego to just off Pakistan in under an hour, hit a tanker orbit ‘escorted’ by a carrier and then carry onwards to Peshawar and beyond.
    An alternative might be Australia to the SCS with tanking launched from Singapore or Taiwan.
    If we can do so much to nip and tuck the most effective of the ‘fast delivery’, high tech, exponent of our services; imagine what we could do to the lower end which is really little better at a force-on-force level than the state of the art now available to much of the world:
    M16A4 vs. G36C, German Gun Wins.
    Leopard 2A7 vs. M1A2 SEP Abrams, stalemate but the Abrams costs more.
    Virginia Class SSGN vs. Type 212/214 AIP SSK, German Boat Wins Shallow, Loses, Blue.
    Ford Class CVN vs. DF-21D ASBM. Missile Wins on 10 million vs. 10 billion cost exchange level.
    Obviously training and Total Force (combined arms + numbers) matters. But we should seriously consider a deep cut in basing modes (as projectors) and warfare modalities (as affordable losses in a war driven by ‘popular belief’) before we even consider retaining the current force structure model and simply going to massive ‘mobilization vs. ready force’ tiering.

  • Ronald

    Is this a blog or a semi-covert corporate advertising gimmick?

  • battlestations

    I understand our obligations to our troops and veterans. I am a veteran, But we are in terrible financial trouble, the debt is almost 17 trillion, as interest rates go up, the interest payments on that 17 trillion will go up. We must cut back across the board, or in 10 years, there will be no money what-so-ever for anything. The defense budget has gone thru the roof in the past 12 years, 10% cut should not be grounding squadrons, docking ships or laying off soldiers. There must be a better way.