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UPDATED: Sen. Leahy, 12 Other Senators, Decry Planned Guard Cuts To Hagel (6:20 PM Monday)

PENTAGON: Congress and the Pentagon are likely to battle for most of the rest of this year over the administration’s budget plans: to retire the U-2 (again); to retire half the Navy’s current cruiser fleet; to trim and consolidate pay and some benefits; to close bases, to retire the A-10 fleet; to whack the Army back, as all the headlines have it, to pre-World War II levels.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled most of the major budget details in a briefing today at the Pentagon. The formal budget rollout comes March 4.

We’ve already been pinged by Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s office about the A-10, clearly positioning the New Hampshire lawmaker to appear as the staunch advocate for the ugly and adored Wart Hog.  Her husband is a former A-10 pilot. 

“Instead of cutting its best and least expensive close air support aircraft in an attempt to save money, the Air Force could achieve similar savings elsewhere in its budget without putting our troops at increased risk,” Ayotte says in an email. “As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I plan to work with my colleagues to prevent the Pentagon from making this serious mistake that I believe could cost the lives of our brave servicemen and women in future conflicts.”

The Air Force says eliminating the entire A-10 fleet would save $3.7 billion over three years. We won’t offer all the material Ayotte’s office sent. Here’s one example. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and his colleagues argue that in these days of declining budgets and the demands of enormous theaters such as the Pacific they must buy multi-role aircraft like the F-35 and the new Long Range Strike system. Single-mission aircraft, no matter how well suited they are to that mission, are just too expensive and limited, they say.

Ayotte’s office said this: “It is not accurate to say the A-10 is a single mission aircraft. For example, the A-10 conducts close air support (CAS), forward air controller-airborne (FAC-A), combat search and rescue (CSAR), and strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR) missions.”

That response came less than two hours after Hagel finished his speech, pretty rapid for such a complex issue.

The other issue likely to generate quite a bit of legislative heat is a new $26 billion fund — the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative – designed to bolster military readiness. Hagel provided very few details about the fund other than noting its part of a larger $58 billion government-wide fund. On the face of it, it sounds like the sort of thing the House GOP would love to hate and appropriators in both chambers would approach with great skepticism. It may be a new incarnation of the wonderful Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds that have paid for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped buy much of what the Pentagon said it needed to wage the war against terrorism over the last 13 years.

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, offered a relatively supportive statement, noting how sequestration had reduced the Pentagon’s readiness budgets. “If Congress does not act, sequestration will go back into effect in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. Secretary Hagel clearly articulated that future uncertainty is making it difficult for the Department to plan,” he said in an emailed statement. “Under these conditions, our military leaders are doing their best to put forward a budget that provides national security. The preview outlines some tough choices, and I look forward to reviewing the budget in its entirety.”

Among the other issues sure to attract congressional scrutiny is the plan to trim the National Guard and the reserves, as well as transfer all Apache helicopters from the Guard to the active Army.

“Today, the Army National Guard numbers about 355,000 soldiers and the Reserves about 205,000 soldiers. By 2017, under our recommendations, there would be 335,000 soldiers in the Army National Guard force structure and 195,000 in the Reserves. If sequestration returns in 2016, the Army National Guard would continue drawing down further, to 315,000. Army Reserves would draw down to 185,000,” Hagel said today in his speech. “We have protected the National Guard and Reserves from cuts to the extent possible, but to maintain a ready and capable force at a time of fiscal constraints, no component of DoD can be entirely exempted from reductions.”

That clearly did not convince Sen. Patrick Leahy, co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus.

“It is greatly disappointing that even after more than a decade of overseas deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon refuses to recognize the versatility and effectiveness of the National Guard. The men and women of the National Guard have proven again and again, beyond any question, that they can do any job they are assigned, at high-levels of performance indistinguishable from their active component counterparts,” Leahy said.  “As co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus and as one who has closely watched the phenomenal work of the Guard in Vermont and other states, I believe the Senate should not and cannot support a long-term plan that guts our citizen-soldier force.” He and 12 colleagues wrote Hagel expressing their opposition to the cuts.

The bottom line for Hagel? “We made choices based on strategic priorities, clear facts, unbiased analysis, and fiscal realities… and with the bottom line focus on how best we can defend the United States.”

Next, the budget battles move to the Hill. In a few weeks professional staff will get the detailed line-item breakout and they can begin analyzing what’s really happening with each program.

 

Corrected Tuesday am: Some idiot put Sen. Ayotte in Arizona. I have talked to that fella and corrected his mistake. Sigh. The Editor.

Comments

  • CharleyA

    I guess they bumped the Navy’s 2-year holiday from F-35 procurement until FY16 if I’m reading that correctly.

  • Don Bacon

    We got it outside the usual formal channels…

    That Eddie Snowden — he’s everywhere.

  • Araya

    A really disappointing outlook/budget with few good but a lot of bad decision.

    Bad decisions:

    1. To take out of service the A10 is simply idiotic just in order to save “3, 5 billion over 5 years” no airframe has killed more enemies or saved more US Soldiers lives them the A10 did. And them the A10 how has fought effectively during desert storm how is destroyed thousands of enemy vehicles and tanks in contested airspace should be useless today in contested air space how useless is how useless is then the MQ1, MQ9 or the AH64 or even 50 years old Bomber like the B52. Modern Air Defense Systems like S300PMU2, S400, HQ9, HQ12, Tor M2, Pansir S25 and so one are a problem for any airframe built this s not an argument to take out of service the recently modernized A10 fleet just in order to save 0, 7 Billions peer Years let be honest a completely useless and not operational LCS coast alone around 0, 7 Billions and for 0, 7 Billions you get at best 6 no operational F35. With other Words they try to kill around 300 proved, deadly Airframe’s to save the money for an additional LCS or 5-6 F35 per year? This decision can only be described as crazy/insane not more!

    2. To reduce the Army to just 440-450k is also a bad decision especially after the
    experiences fallowing the attacks of 9/11 how the US Army with nearly 480k
    proved to be too small for the job this lead to large losses of human life and
    money and now the Army will become even smaller them before 9/11 simply because why they didn’t love Asymmetric Wars? So what if them it should be necessary again to fight an asymmetric war? Unthinkable or improbable you say? So just remember what before 9/11 no one has thought about this kind of Wars but this has not prevented them from occur. Fact is what the US Military has never fight the Wars for what he has planned to fight even the former SecDef Robert Gates agrees as to.

    3. To kill the OH-58D is also another stupid move so you lose around 300 light Combat choppers without a replace. The OH-58D is not so effective or important as the A10 Thunderbolt II but it is a platform which has proved to be useful and effective and to lose this airframe just mean to lose a lot of firepower without replacement so the Number of AH64 will not grow they will remain the same.

    4. To lay up 11 Ticonderoga Cruiser is also idiotic because why the Ticonderoga Class is next to the Carrier the strongest US Surface Combatant and especially capable for the entire spectrum of War Missions from Air defense, over ASW to ASUW. So a Tico-curser has more VLS Cells them a DDG51 and also Harpoon Missile’s for direct ASW Missions so it is illogical to take 11 better armed Surface Combat Ships how are already paid and in service them you buy two less capable DDG51 at the same time for 1,2 Billion each. For example them the Navy really seek to save money why they didn’t simply take out of service Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigate’s how are after the removing of there SM1 Missile’s system simply useless and unarmed hulls like the LCS.

    Good decisions:

    1. To cut the order of the LCS from 52 to 32 hulls is really the best decision of the
    entire Budget this ship is simply crap and it is good to see what at last Hagel
    has recognized what the LCS lack of Fire Power and survivability.

    2. To start a study for a new small surface combat ship is also a really good decision especially the mention of the word frigate class is notable because why such a study will lead to a real surface combat ship.

    3. To reduce the Number of Drone patrols is also not a bad decision in order to save money the MQ1 and MQ9 are complete useless for real war operations.

    4. One Billion for the developing of a new Jet Engine can be considered as an early attempt to design a 6 generation fighter, a powerful engine is an essential component of any new airframe.

    5. To withdraw the U2 in order to save the RQ4 Block 30 is also a good decision the U2 is like as the RQ4 not viable in a real War but the RQ4 is at last unnamed so them a RQ4 should be downed one a reconnaissance flight so at least
    as no one dies.

    I believe what the Congress will stop the dullest components of the Budget request so the A10 at last look to have a lot of support and the Ticonderoga Class was also saved the last two times by the congress from an early retreat so one this two program I’m am optimistic.

    • Mark_Aust

      worth parking the Tico’s as “shore based” ABMs and at least have the radars/missiles up and ready to go?

  • TerryTee

    I agree with him on the LCS (Little Crappy Ships) but the A-10 should be
    kept at all costs. The F-35 (Junk Strike Fighter) will NEVER BE ABLE TO
    REPLACE THE A-10 for CAS. And he knows it. I sure hope all the
    Governors & Congressman/Women with A-10′s in their Air National
    Guard units tell him to F_ _K O_F, remember they cut the CHECKS for the DOD not the other way around.

    • rbrtlittle

      The U.S. has been facing off against 3rd world opponents for over two decades, and is now in the position of being severely ill prepared to fight a modern military. I would far rather see more Zumwalts and fewer Ford carriers, but the sad fact is that our Navy is old, our Air Force planes old and our helicopter fleets old, old old. If the U.S. wants to be able to fight China or even Iran, it has to build new weapons systems, and it doesn’t have the money to do that and keep the Army at its current size, the A-10, the U-2, and those critical cruisers. Something has to give, unless you want to continue the immense Bush expenditures. The military had, last I could figure, 308 bases on U.S. soil, well over 1100 overseas. Let’s cut 500 or so, and build us some energy weapons, finish the F-35′s, and spend some money on missiles and missile defense, meaning the Zumwalt. The LCS has one capability that is overlooked – it has the electrical capacity to field either of the two energy weapons now being developed. Otherwise, it’s an aluminum speedboat.

      • SHANGA27

        Given economic financial extremis hard choices have to be made and I’m glad they are being made now. Many of the weapon systems in our arsenal are ideally suited to fight the last war not the predominately asymmetric conflicts (terrorism, cyber etc.) of the future. Our enemies will not play to our strengths. They will come out swinging with near peer offensive capabilities in cyber and other asymmetric capabilities. The first iteration of the Zumwalt costs $3.5 billion, the other 2 copies slightly less. That’s $3.5 billion plus we could spend on filling capability gaps needed for non-conventional fighting. Both Iran and China spend a small fraction of the $700 billion we spend annually on defense — even with their increased military budgets. Best we resist our national bias towards the familiar and re-tool to confront looming non-conventional threats.

  • j m

    These dopes think Senator Kelly Ayotte is from Arizona! She’s the junior senator from New Hampshire.

  • Curtis Conway

    Parking “Double-Enders” that can be BMD ships, with nothing to replace them? What are they thinking with?

  • JPWREL .

    Here in Tucson where the A-10′s are based it is my understanding that the fleet is old and in need of expensive structural repair. Also, the A-10 is helpless against any state that has relatively modern anti-aircraft missiles.

    • Mike

      Tell that to the thousands of Marines and Army ground pounders that are alive today because of the A-10 badboy…… Where the A-10 operates there are generally few of those modern anti-aircraft missiles….. Nothing in the arsenal does a better job of protecting the backside of our groundguys, period!… If anything, the Army and Marines need to take control of this fine aircraft, which can land and take-off from some pretty crappy roads… The darn thing is a flying tank and darm welcome when our guys are outnumbered or the other guys bring up some heavy equipment!…..

      • JPWREL .

        Well, I wasn’t suggesting eliminating the A-10 but merely reporting what some USAF pilots with whom I shoot skeet with tell me.
        I suppose if it was up to me I would give the A-10 to the Army and Marines along with enough money to rebuild them and let those services fly their own CAS. They could help pay for it by canceling the Army’s newest white elephant concept an 80 APC. I don’t think there is a bridge in the third-world that it could cross? Upgraded Bradley’s would be fine.

        • Rick P.

          The issue with these two airframes goes more to what the Air Force wants or doesn’t want, as opposed to this being SecDef Hagel’s idea . . . Additionally, there is an old agreement hammered-out between the Air Force and Navy known as the Key West Agreement of 1948 that specifies among things, the Army can’t fly large fixed wing aircraft (the Corps’ Air Wings part of Naval aviation).

          • JPWREL .

            Yes, the Key West Agreement applies, but if it served the USAF’s immediate interests perhaps they would be willing to amend the agreement? When there is a will there is a way.

          • Rick P.

            Some might say the Air Force has always been more driven by strategic bombing and controlling the skies with fighters, while relegating close air support (CAS) as shank’s mare . . . The foregoing comment not meant to disparage the bravery and commitment of Warthog drivers, or other AF pilots providing CAS when called for.

            If a mission is taken or ceded away, than budgeting follows and the Air Force isn’t about to allow that, as would be the case with any other Service.

            I suspect the F-35 in its various variants is looked upon as the future aircraft for all seasons?

          • Mike

            Hi guys,

            I understand the Air Force’s desire to control the skies, but the A-10 is the right weapon at the right time to protect our guys when the others surprise us with the big stuff… Helicopters are nice, but are not near as impervious to ground-fire as the “flying tank” A-10…

            God knows the Army and Marines having control of that bird would save even more casualties in a big way and the guys flying those lifesavers would be able to get into the fight a lot sooner with Army and Marine ground commanders (who really know the ground situation because they are there)… being able to call directly for those bad boys…

            The F-35 is very vulnerable to ground fire. The only reason we have not lost more F-16′s and F-18′s is that we have the A-10 to do that job a lot closer and more personal than those fighters could ever hope to engage…

            In my opinion, the guys flying those A-10′s are the bravest pilots the Air Force has and God knows, they certainly have saved more grunt lives than the rest combined!…..

          • Rick P.

            My view, having once fought an enemy with a modicum of a conventional capability, the reason the U.S. has not lost more air-frames in general is the adversary we are fighting hasn’t the capability.

            So, though I agree with your premise that fast movers aren’t the best for CAS (loiter time on station a concern, as the F-35 portends to be a fuel hog) it remains to be seen how vulnerable the F-35 will be.

            Again, my sense of it is, the Air Force is looking for multi-purpose aircraft instead of tying assets to a single purpose. And spending money to rework and upgrade aging A-10s is money the Air Force likely sees as sunk cost?

          • Mike

            Recently the Army moved Armor from Fort knox to Ft. Benning… Great move as the more armor and Infantry train and live together, the better will be our outcome on the battlefield…. I’n not so sure that moving the A-10 to the Army and Ft. Benning would not be a smart move also.

            After all the better those arms of the ground movement work together the better the outcome, aye? Might seem radical, but some of our best changes were once called radical… I’m reminded of Jimmy Mitchell trying to convince the Navy that a mere airplane could sink a battleship…. Radical, until he did it and changed Naval aviation forever

          • Rick P.

            Although unrelated to the subject at hand, keep in mind that as basing and airfield availability becomes prone to the whims of foreign governments, for one reason or another, the Army may not have the luxury of being able to find a benign airfield and the time to build-up combat power in the future . . . The sea is the best place for freedom of maneuver from.
            Good talking with you. Perhaps we’ll talk again on another article.

            Toujours Fidele

    • SrA Lawrence

      Think of the local impact that would occur if the A-10 is removed from Davis-Monthan, all those Airman are going too. Davis-Monthan contributes 1.6 Billion with a B, dollars a year to Tucsons economy alone. Tucson’s economy would take a nose dive, Your house would be worthless. Basically put, if our A-10′s go the the grave Tucson is going with them. Think about that first.

  • Chernenko

    I really hate it when the Navy retires ships early. The tax payers want a full thirty years out of those hulls. The Ticonderoga’s are still mission capable, hell the non VLS have already been retired. Retiring these ships with out a replacement class is going to leave a void.

  • Chiri Brown

    I think is bad decision

  • jmac67

    How about getting the welfare rolls down and use some of that for the military? Get rid of the cheats and the pols who want their votes and put the money into the people who really deserve it for protecting all of us even the deadbeats.

  • wrpickard

    If we are going to end up phasing out the A-10, AND provide aid to the Ukraine – then let’s at least give them a squadron of the planes plus the training in how to use them. After all, they were developed to fight in that theatre – and they’d give the Russians second thoughts about invading.

    • Mike

      Amen and well said!…. I have this image of a bunch of Russian tanks crossing the Ukrainian border hatches open singing the Russian Anthem… Then shortly after they disappear over a high point, the Company commander loses communication with them and is presented with smoke rising into the sky on a path that his tanks would have followed… The only indicator of trouble was the sound of a Gatling gun and several air to ground missiles reaching their targets, followed by a dull roar so close to the ground that the tank commander sees nothing…..