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CAPITOL HILL: Sen. Carl Levin made very clear to his colleagues just what is at stake in the inevitable  shout-fest over benefits and compensation. It is the $31 billion saved in the proposed budget in reductions to the rate of pay growth, boosted Tricare payments, and consolidations in the healthcare program, the 5 percent reduction in the housing allowance and the reduction in the subsidy for the military commissaries.

“$31 billion would have to be found if Congress rejects those proposals, is that correct?” Levin asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. That’s right, Hagel agreed. And Congress, eyes locked on the November elections with the Senate at stake and every House district up for grabs, is likely to scream loud and long that “our troops deserve the best” and “we must keep faith” and a host of other slogans and arguments that lobbyists for the service associations, veterans groups and a host of others will encourage them to use. (It must be said that some senators and members really do believe those slogans.)

So, one of three key points of friction between the Pentagon and Congress will be compensation and benefits. A second one will be the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, into which the Pentagon has tucked two F-35s, eight P-8s, a passel of Army helicopters, some base spending and other gear. But we’ve already written about that. The third point of friction is the Navy, where a range of lawmakers worry first about the Pentagon’s commitment to keeping 11 carriers at sea and, second, worry that the surface fleet, already shrinking, will grow too small as the Navy proposes to lay up 11 cruisers and modernize them and cut the size of the Littoral Combat Ship purchase from 52 to 32.

The carrier issue came up during today’s SASC hearing when the new senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel just what he’d need to be able to guarantee the nation would keep 11 carriers at sea. Under the current budget plan, the Pentagon has made clear it would like to have 11 carriers but cannot if sequestration remains in effect come 2016. (Reminder: sequestration  was only put on hold for 2014 and 2015. Under the law as it now stands, the dreaded sequester comes roaring back in the next fiscal year.)

“We have to have some indication from Congress that you are going to appropriate the money we need,” outgoing DoD Comptroller Robert Hale explained to Kaine. “I’m wondering precisely what indication would be sufficient given we’ve just done a budget?” Kaine asked. Hagel told the senator he understood and “heard” him. But Hagel also told Kaine that “…the law does not allow me to do that with the current numbers…”

Hagel referenced a letter he had sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which he gave them guidance about the budget. Breaking Defense obtained the letter.

Here’s the crux:

“If Congress indicates it will appropriate future budgets at the levels requested in the President’s 2015 budget, based on my consultations with each of you, we have concluded that we can ultimately support a larger force while keeping it ready and modernized for the security challenges that await us.

“Therefore, FY 2016 will be a critical inflection point. We will look for a signal from Congress that sequestration will not be imposed in FY 2016 and that the funding levels projected in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) will be realized. If that happens, we will submit a budget that implements our desired force levels,” Hagel Letter to Joint Chiefs

Congress, over to you.

In other news, Hagel denied Sen. John McCain’s claims of “another massive [intelligence] failure because of our total misreading of the intentions of Mr. Putin.” The defense secretary declined to discuss details of our intelligence on the Russian moves, but he made clear we knew Vladimir Putin was going into Ukraine.

Comments

  • Don Bacon

    Good description of the situation.

    Too bad someone didn’t ask about Fox’s letter: What are “the security challenges that await us” that require eleven aircraft carriers? The QDR only specifically lists North Korea and Iran as threats to the US, and of course that’s BS. And how does a thirteen billion dollar carrier support the troops?

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    Carriers won the Pacific war and B-17′s and B-24′s won the European war. Now do we think that type of war is possible or just hunting down a person here or there leading a group who want to enslave those around them. So today a Good sniper and drone delivery system. How much of those can a carrier or B-17/24 fund? It’s not likely Europe would let someone as the Russians or Chinese move without being a deterent until the USA could get stuff on the scene. The money problem across the Globe though is scary, that needs to be addressed foremost or we will have a situation as a World War. How do you beat Greed? A 5 % cut on the house the way to go? A 50 percent cut in Politics?

    • James Hedman

      The effectiveness of our ruinously expensive high level bombing of strategic targets in Europe is now considered highly dubious. Even after the most successful raids German arms factories were usually back in production in under a week. As for the genocidal terror night blanket fire-bombings of the German and Japanese civilian populations in the cities, they only stiffened the target populations will to resist and keep on fighting.

      • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

        I disagree with anybody who thinks that bombing did not win the war. Even if it did nothing but give you air recon that is a major plus in a war. Yes there was fanatical soldiers who fought til they where killed but they had no chance of stopping us or the Russians. Japans culture may have led to them to fight til they were killed if we had not used the bomb but again no chance to stop us. Not being able to move supplies by rail or road and the bombing of large formations in the field proved in favor of that bombing and winning the war. Far as rebuilding factories for weapons and stuff the Germans did do that pretty quick but a little tougher to build all those trains again, and bridges as in Italy and to replace that oil. At the end Germany still had planes but no fuel.

        • James Hedman

          It wasn’t B-17s and B-24s that did most of that. It was medium bombers and fighter bombers that did the real damage. Strategic high level bombing failed and the incendiary raids on defenseless civilians by Lancasters and B-29s were war crimes clear and simple.

          Read the book Human Smoke.

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            It was the B-17′s and 24′s ( RAF too) over Germany that made the Luftwaffe have to try and prevent that, which in the end was their demise and it was the B-24′s I think at Ploesti many times that finally did that fuel in. I agree the medium and fighter bombers added into the carnage. I agree on the civilians being killed as a crime but if not done over Germany or Japan would have been done over the U.S. in the end by their bombers. What I’ve read about the 8th AF we tried not to go to that indiscriminate area bombing still doing our best to at least look as if after a military target but later in the campaign we did. I know under those Big Bombers was no place anyone wanted to be. I’ve got a book on Berlin under them and a book on the Italian campaign telling stuff and then it states ‘the American bombers came’. I believe Monte Cassino got both medium and the Heavies. I got Air Power by Walter Cronkite narrating, the Big Boys done the job. Took many trips but that did the job. I know a tank driver in Patton’s army was still scared at the end of a Stuka dropping a bomb near his Sherman killing everyone from the concussion. Planes ruled, took other elements too in the war but those planes and those carrying the heavy payloads laying waste below is what won WW2.

          • James Hedman

            Nope. It was rifle companies, massed armor, and artillery that won the war.

          • jgelt

            At least give tac air it’s due. Even Patton was willing to admit that.

          • James Hedman

            I did. Learn to read. There is no greater supporter of CAS than I as it saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

          • jgelt

            Hi James,
            Sorry about that. I was up late on that one and forgot that you were the same poster form much earlier in this thread.

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            Yes I know they played a part but when the rifle companies, massed armor and artillery was versing the enemy the enemy could not get his ammo or fuel. A Tiger tank is awesome but worthless if out of gas and ammo. Attrition does win wars though but as seen in WW2 you have to have control of that air. The Germans did or at least were on even levels with France and above the level of the low countries. Against Russia at the start they won with enormous kills. But then came the U.S. and the Russians finally after losing so many thousands early. It takes all facets to win a war but I say the air is the most important. And I say carpet bombing without regard to those under the bombs is the most effective.

          • James Hedman

            “I say carpet bombing without regard to those under the bombs is the most effective.”

            :-)

          • jgelt

            Hi SS,
            First you are using tactical and strategic missions interchangeably. No one doubts the value of tactical air missions during world war 2. Bridge interdiction and close air support are tactical.

            Strategic bombing, the use of bombers to damage production is a whole different game. It recent years the analysis of WW2 strategic bombing shows it’s value to be highly questionable.

            Your sources appear to be a bit dated. Back when good old Walter was narrating documentaries information about WW2 was taken purely as the government reported.

            Here’s the facts. The bombing of Romania’s oil fields had virtually no impact on oil production but cost the allies dearly. It’s considered a strategic failure.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Tidal_Wave

            1944 was the largest production year for German tanks and aircraft. The only numbers that fell were bombers which was conscious choice by the Germans. In 1945 production was still nearly at the 1944 pace, if you take into account that the war was over the fist week of May.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_armored_fighting_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_aircraft_production_during_WW2

            Taking those poor results, coupled with allied aircrew losses, along with needless attacks against civilians and the U.S. taking the moral low ground ; it overall wasn’t worth it.

            Pick up a few more recent books, you’ll find that there is at least controversy on the issue.

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            Yes J. I know there has always been controversy on the issue since the Italian guy came up with the ideal of bombing to demoralize the people of a country. I would say seeing bombers overhead day in and day out would give you a quick realization that you are going to lose a war. It’s ability to strike far behind the front lines and carry a heavy payload whether you hit the target you are after or deliver the bombs within a few miles of the target killing and maiming those civilians protected by what those targets are producing brings the same conclusion to the view, you are going to lose the war. Thanks J. for the comments, you make some good points.

          • jgelt

            Douhet did come up with the theory, but by the time World War 2 had started there were serious doubts. When a production plant was successfully destroyed, production was back up within 2 weeks. When water and electricity was interrupted in the cities it was back up within 24 hours. Workers were obviously being killed, yet production still kept going up. The German soldiers tried to hold every inch of ground and launched offensives when the outcome was clearly hopeless. If these are the earmarks of failing morale, I’d hate to see when the Germans were feeling plucky. The point is that the bombing had no practical impact on morale. What makes it worse is that British and American planners went ahead with deliberately bombing civilians when the experts said it was questionable and continued when it was clearly not having an effect.

          • james

            I’ve read Speers book and he talks about this subject a lot. If anyone would know, it’s him.

            It’s true that the allied bombing failed to impact production efforts as much as thought, primarily because they did not hit targets repeatedly enough, but it definitely impacted it. And the reason German production was able to keep going up is that the Nazis finally stopped their vanity projects that were diverting resources from the war. Two other points on that, one is that while it kept going up, it sure didn’t go up like American production capacity did, also massive resources were spent on homeland air defense instead of on equipment for troops at the front.

            In the Pacific strategic bombing ended the war. That’s not disputable. The alternative would have been a Japan completely laid waste and another hundred thousand dead Americans.

  • James Hedman

    Our carriers spend very little time on station due to budget constraints. Look at how many are sitting in port at Norfolk right now:

    http://publicradio1.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/newscut/files/legacy/content_images/aircraft_carriers_large.jpg

    • Don Bacon

      Actually they spend little time on station under all circumstances — normally no more than 3 or 4 of the ten carriers are at sea at any time. Currently only two are at seat — Nimitz and Truman.
      http://www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html

      • James Hedman

        Yes, they spend so much time traveling to and from their home port that the Navy keeps some of their smaller ships on station and swaps out the crews at a convenient port.

        • Dave Perry

          Which ships? Are you referring to the sea swap program, which had been discontinued but the Navt may resurrect? I can assure you it is certainly not normal. By all means tell me which ships are being kept out in 5th fleet.

          • James Hedman

            I don’t care what ships are currently in the 5th fleet. We don’t need them since that part of the world is none of our business since there are no US flagged merchant ships worth talking about and hence protecting anymore.

          • Dave Perry

            I am realizing you have zero idea how the Navy is set up. Obviously you are free to have an opinion, even when you don’t know anything about a topic. Have a nice day though.

          • James Hedman

            If all goes well you will be laid off due to budget cuts and force reduction before your 20 is up.

          • Dave Perry

            Well, being as that has nothing to do with the original point, I guess you win. Touche, you have bested me, mr. ITG.

          • James Hedman

            You are the one handing out fighting words he can’t back up and it has everything to do with the original point. We don’t need 11 aircraft carriers and therefore we don’t need you to be pulling in a government paycheck. Is that a simple enough connection for you to understand?

          • Dave Perry

            Pointing out your untruth = fighting words only in your little ITG fantasy world.

          • James Hedman

            Showing a very slightly out of date picture is not a lie as you originally put it. BTW, speaking of untruths I thought you said you were outta’ here. Apparently that was an “untruth.”

          • Dave Perry

            Sorry, I can’t get past your lie. Downplay it all you want, attempt to pull some kind of ITG aggression thing through your keyboard, whatever. Again, you got caught in a lie, I am truly sorry for you.

          • James Hedman

            Your rants sound absolutely ridiculous.

      • Dave Perry

        Counting 77 as not being at sea when she is in a liberty port in Greece (while on deployment) is fantastically misleading. Do you have an expectation that carriers should never pull into port?

        • James Hedman

          Quit yer’ bitchin’. Carriers are obsolete sitting ducks no matter where they are. Your time has passed. Unfortunately it is going to take the sinking of a CVN in the Persian Gulf or South China Sea to drive the point home. Hopefully the federal government will default first and save us the humiliating defeat.

          • Dave Perry

            Wow. Didn’t realize calling you on your factual inaccuracy meant I was ‘bitchin”.
            I will take a CVN to project power any day. Seems to have worked for 70 years. I am sure in your vast experience you have an alternative, albeit untested.

          • James Hedman

            OK, I see you have finally been able to control your temper and refrain from talk that would lead to a severe beat down if said to my face. February 5th isn’t right now but it was the most recent picture I could find to prove my still accurate point that our carriers are hardly ever found on station. And my alternative was thoroughly tested by yours truly and with iron sights no less!

          • Dave Perry

            I truly wish I could say this and so much more to you.
            Bottom line, you said it was right now to make an erroneous point, you got called on it. I am sorry that you feel the need to respond like you are…

          • Dave Perry

            Your alternative is you with a rifle? How cute.

          • James Hedman

            Me along with a rifle company actually. But being a fat swabbie you wouldn’t have a clue about that.

          • Dave Perry

            An honest to goodness internet tough guy. You seriously have me quaking.
            You and your company are not projecting power. You have no idea what strike missions are, and have no idea even how the military is set up operationally. My time with you in this conversation is officially a waste. Good day.

          • James Hedman

            You’ve never even seen any action and you want to lecture me about why we need to “project” power? The fact is we can neither afford nor do we in anyway need an 11 carrier Navy. Get a real job.

          • Dave Perry

            Well, I guess you and your fantasy rifle company can take up the slack I guess.

          • James Hedman

            Last I heard my fantasy rifle company was alive and well at Camp Pendleton.

          • James Hedman

            Since you know what you posted that was censored (as do I) then you know what will happen if we ever meet. ‘Nuff said.

          • Dave Perry

            Since your points are lies, I expect nothing more. Love the ’nuff said, though. Very mature.

          • James Hedman

            Lies? There is nothing untruthful about the fact that most of our CVNs spend very little time on station which seems to be the consensus of most posters to this thread.

            BTW, thank you for your service, NOT!

    • Dave Perry

      How old is thst photo? Bush (77) is in Greece. Is this a deliberate bit of misinfo to make some point?

      • James Hedman

        It was taken on February 5th (obviously before she embarked.)

        • Dave Perry

          Why did you say that was the carrier presence right now?

          • James Hedman

            Why is a 5th fleet carrier parked in Greece?

          • Dave Perry

            What are you talking about? You realize ships transit to and through different geographic areas, right? The ships are nukes but they are only so fast, man.

          • James Hedman

            The average CVN spends an average of about two months a year on station. What a waste of money for no reason at all. The United States is not under any sort of either short or long-term threat of invasion. Those carriers are useless pimples on the ass of the body politic.

          • Dave Perry

            Well, your own math proves you are wrong. There are two locations in which we maintain a carrier presence; the 5th and 7th fleet areas. If a carrier spends two months on station per year, and we need two at any given time, therefore (assuming your ‘fact’ is correct) we would actually need 12 carriers, not eleven. If you want the country to have less, by all means petition the government to rewrite the National Security Strategy. Until then, we keep the carriers regardless of your opinion.

          • James Hedman

            I don’t have to do a damn thing. Our parlous financial straights will force the cuts and as you point out it’s even worse than I said. You lose on facts.

          • Dave Perry

            Lol, more likely it is because we don’t hold to 1.0 presence 100% of the time, but by all means stick to your guns even in the face of proper facts.
            You have no basis for understanding of national security. As always, you can have whatever misguided/ignorant opinion you desire, but facts are facts.

          • James Hedman

            I understand we’re broke. I understand that if we keep tweaking Russia’s tail and they sell the 2 or 3 hundred billion dollars in US Treasuries they hold there will be a run on selling Treasuries and you fine sir will be out of a job even sooner than you think.

  • Rc21

    Aircraft carriers are sitting ducks in a fight against a reasonably industrialized society, and you don’t need 11 to fight the folks that have the majority of their population living in mud huts. If you think you are going to need eleven it won’t be enough. Get real, carriers were made to do two things; support over the beach entry forces and control sea lanes. We haven’t had to do either in many many years. We now have precision weapons that let us use the words ‘bomber CAS’ with a straight face and launch cruise missiles from quite a distance from the fight. Do we really need 11 floating airfields for tactical attack aircraft? Having a stable of carriers may provide more options but so would having a different car to drive to work every day of the week. At some point affordability has to enter the calculus.