CAPITOL HILL: Despite recent major developments in Iran’s nuclear program, the effort has yet to cross the ‘red lines’ requiring military intervention, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today.

Testifying before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today, Panetta said intelligence shows that Tehran has yet to transition its nuclear program into a full-fledged weapons program. “That is the red line,” Panetta told subcommittee members today. Keep reading →

THE PENTAGON: DoD turned up the heat on lawmakers, restating that it has no plan for addressing another $500 billion-plus in additional defense cuts forced by the congressional Super Committee’s failure.

Furthermore, DoD will not formulate a plan to deal with the defense cuts prompted by the Obama administration’s sequestration plan, Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale told reporters during yesterday’s 2013 budget rollout here. “This is not a good policy,” Hale said regarding the administration’s tentative sequestration plan to take $600 billion from DoD coffers. The Pentagon’s refusal to draft a sequestration budget strategy essentially challenges Capitol Hill to come up with a way to spare the department any more spending cuts. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Sen. Susan Collins blasted the “highly politicized” nature of Congress, questioning whether lawmakers can resolve any of the major problems facing it, including the threat of sequestration.

Collins, one of the few surviving Republican moderates on the Hill, noted the positive results for the Navy in the fiscal 2012 defense appropriations during her speech today at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference in Arlington. While congressional appropriators did fund 11 new ships in the legislation, that “came against the background of a harsher partisan environment that continues to get worse,” the Maine Republican said. “I’ve never seen a more polarized environment, which is accompanied by huge challenges to national defense,” Collins said.

Congress needs to get past the pattern of Democratic and Republican proposals, “which both sides know will never pass” and get to “more American proposals,” she said, drawing long applause from the audience of service members and defense industry representatives. Keep reading →

In this exclusive article for Breaking Defense, President of Monitor National Security Ajay Patel and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and Senior Advisor Ben Wachendorf claim the impact of looming defense budget will be much worse than expected.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Congress about the potentially catastrophic impact of the $500 billion in Super Committee cuts on defense capabilities. Will the cuts truly be as deep and long-lasting as predicted? If history is a guide – no – they will be worse.

A graphic in our recent study of defense budgets shows a roller-coaster ride of dramatic peaks and valleys. Following the Vietnam era buildup was a precipitous decline. Then came the soaring expenditures of the Reagan era and First Gulf War followed by the deep dive of the “peace dividend” period. The horrors of 9/11 induced the sharpest climb with over $1.5 trillion of defense increases (in constant fiscal 2012 dollars) over the next 10 years. That was over twice the increase in constant dollars of the ten year periods associated with the war in Vietnam and the Reagan – Gulf War I buildup.

Most significantly for today’s discussion, the decreases in defense spending following past sustained periods of defense budget growth have always lasted longer and gone substantially lower than the Pentagon predicted. During the last sustained decline, Pentagon planners consistently underestimated the magnitude and duration of defense cuts in the out years.

In fact, it took over five years before the planners caught up with reality. While some of this lag is an outcome of the long planning cycle that starts nearly two-years prior to the enacted budget, much can also be attributed to systemic and persistently optimistic biases that are inherent in strategic planning and budgeting processes in both the public and private sectors. Post-conflict reductions in defense spending were in the low-to-mid 30 per cent range after the two past conflicts. We would not be surprised to see a similar drop in the coming years.

There are several factors that will distinguish the forthcoming period of decline in defense spending from those which followed the Vietnam War and Reagan buildups. For the first time, legislation is imposing limits on defense spending over a 10-year period. In the past there were five-year spending plans –-but in fact the out year spending estimates were just that – estimates – and did not receive close Congressional scrutiny.

Also, the Joint Congressional Committee and its highly compressed timelines and triggering actions will require a significant change from recent highly polarized political debates or mandatory large cuts to defense spending. Finally, the absence of a near term peer military threat and the presence of more amorphous diverse threats from terrorism, failed states, and ethnic/religious conflict will cloud the argument. Policy makers and pundits will debate over forward deployed versus garrisoned forces, hard versus soft power, and the virtues and limits of multilateral-ism. The answers to all these debates will have a significant impact on the budget outlook.

Regardless of the amount of defense spending cuts that are eventually implemented, a new calculus will have to be developed between political doctrine, national security strategy, force structure and investments to maintaining existing capabilities and develop new ones. Large cuts in personnel are on the horizon, particularly for the Army and Marine Corps while both struggle to avoid the “hollow force” which plagued the U.S. in the early ’80s. The Navy will have to make painful tradeoffs in the types of ships it can afford to build and operate while the Air Force will struggle with replacing large numbers of fighter and bomber aircraft nearing the end of their service life while also investing in space and cyberspace.

Expect draconian cuts in areas like the nation’s triad of strategic nuclear forces and contentious debates regarding the right mix of manned and unmanned platforms.

The outcome of any of these debates is unknowable at this time. One thing, however, is certain. Those who work for, invest in or rely upon the defense industry – and that means all Americans — are in for some sharp changes.

In an article penned exclusively for Breaking Defense, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett weighs in on what needs to be done to maintain U.S. national security goals in light of the economic difficulties facing the country.

There are those who argue that with our current national strategy, additional deep cuts to our military, as would occur under sequester, would be catastrophic. We agree. But it seems clear to most that our financial plight and the realities of the world we live in require a new national strategy. Until we have completed that exercise we have no way of knowing how much more might be cut without risk to our national security. The thoughts contained herein address that decision making process. I am on the House Armed Services Committee and am deeply concerned that we continue to support a military adequate to the security needs of our country. But there must be a rationalization between the magnitude of our military might and the necessity to develop a financial policy that avoids bankruptcy of our country. With a debt that grows another $1 billion every six hours with no plateau in sight, this is a daunting challenge. These two demands, an adequate military and the avoidance of national bankruptcy, must share risks equitably.

Our deficit is hundreds of billions of dollars larger than all of our discretionary spending. Thus, if we had no Department of Defense, no Department of Homeland Security, no CIA or FBI or any of the other myriads of government agencies and programs, we would still have a deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars. Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: House and Senate Republicans will team up on pending legislation to spare the Defense Department from a potential $1 trillion budget cut, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said today.

McKeon has been in contact with Senate counterparts who are pitching similar plan to clear the looming $600 billion budget cut off the Pentagon’s books, he said during today’s press conference on Capitol Hill. The Senate GOP announced this week they had begun drafting a “substitute” deficit reduction plan to counter the current sequestration plan. The effort is being spearheaded by Sens John Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte. The Senate bill will likely not be ready until January. Meanwhile, McKeon dropped his version of the plan late last night. Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: A day after Senate Republicans announced their own plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the national deficit, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon unveiled a plan of his own.

The “Down Payment To Protect National Security Act” calls for a ten percent total cut to the federal workforce spread over 10 years, according to a committee statement released today. “A [10 percent] reduction will be achieved over 10 years by only hiring one federal bureaucrat for every three who retire,” the statement says. The plan will save an estimated $127 billion over the next decade. That money will pay for part of the Pentagon’s $600 billion deficit reduction bill. “Over half of the deficit reduction efforts to date have come out of the military,” McKeon said in the statement. “The troops simply don’t have any more to give. It is time we address our debt crisis sensibly, by literally shrinking the size of government.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: A Republican plan to spare the Pentagon roughly $500 billion in spending cuts faces rough passage with no guarantee the department could avoid the spending reduction, two defense analysts say.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John Kyl will roll out a “substitute” sequestration plan this week. Formal legislation will likely hit the Hill sometime in January, when Congress returns from the Christmas break, Ayotte said today. The freshman senator was light on details but she was clear the legislation would shift the $500 billion in spending cuts from the Pentagon’s budget and move them into other agencies budgets. Tough times demand tough decisions, Graham told reporters at the same event, but the times demand that “the first check you write should be for defense.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: The Air Force is turning to its allies for help as it looks to maintain a viable global presence in the face of coming budget cuts, a top Air Force general said today.

The service expects to get much smaller as the Pentagon’s struggles to meet the White House deficit reduction goals and possible fallout from the Super Committee’s failure to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget, Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Newton said at an Air Force Association-sponsored event this morning. The assistant vice chief of staff wouldn’t say how small the service may end up being. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said the Air Force may end up being the smallest its been since its creation after World War II, Keep reading →

Washington: Last fall, the Marine Corps had a plan for what it would look like after Afghanistan. That picture appears increasingly out of focus as the service braces itself for impending budget cuts, the commandant said today.

The Marines’ will fall far below the 186,000-man total force it had initially aimed for once combat operations wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. James Amos said this morning. The four-star general couldn’t comment on how far that number will fall, saying it was being worked inside the Pentagon. But the final figure will likely be part of the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget plan to be released this February. That plan will detail at least $260 billion in defense cuts over the next decade. Keep reading →

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