BY Rachel Kleinfeld Left, right. When it comes to the military, those labels aren’t supposed to mean much. But they do because, simply, those who believe in their parties define themselves in opposition to each other. While it rarely provides Americans with the rich debate and soaring rhetoric one sees in a parliamentary system,… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Here’s something to raise your hackles, or to Spider Man fans, set your spidey sense tingling. Air Force Secretary Mike Donley told reporters this morning that the budget and strategy talks are “two separate discussions trucking along in parallel.”
“The tension between the need to do something to address the deficit and the strategic environment have been two separate discussions trucking along in parallel,” Donley said when I asked him if and when someone in the Pentagon would resign in the face of the strategic risks being piled up as a result of our hapless course. (He didn’t answer the resignation question, of course.) Keep reading →
The Air Force general responsible for most of the nation’s military nuclear force is worried that the Continuing Resolution and the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration will wipe out 20 percent of the money he needs to keep his force combat ready.
“You can’t take those kinds of reductions we’ll be looking at without some kind of degradation.” said Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command and America’s nuclear-capable bombers and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that represent two-thirds of the total nuclear deterrence force. Keep reading →
The Air Force’s top leaders warn that the “nation’s on-going budget gymnastics impose costly consequence on the Air Force and other services” and pleaded with Congress to avoid sequester, which they said would leave a “hollow force” unable to perform its mission.
In a joint appearance before Pentagon reporters Friday, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Gen. Mark Welsh, the Chief of Staff, sketched out the steps they were taking to implement Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s directive to curtail spending in an effort to soften the harsh effect on their operations and programs if sequester hits on March 1. Donley has spent the week building up to this appeal, including by publishing a series of exclusive op-eds in Breaking Defense. Keep reading →
You know it’s bad when the President’s own national security adviser calls the Secretary of Defense over for a meeting at the White House to explain exactly how the administration is “pivoting” to Asia yet shrinking the Navy and the Air Force. But that’s what happened earlier this year. It is no surprise given the administration’s budget-strategy mismatch.
When President Obama unveiled his new strategic guidance in January, highlighted by a pivot to Asia, many assumed (incorrectly) that the Navy and Air Force would reap the benefits. But if the president’s own 2013 defense budget request did not make it clear to policymakers already, the release of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan confirms this is a pivot in name only. Keep reading →
Washington: The Army’s strategy to close long-term readiness gaps stemming from its rush to rebuild war-torn equipment is falling woefully short of expectations, leaving service units to come up with their own solutions.
The Army’s R3 initiative has been the blueprint for how the service plans to reset, retrograde and redistribute weapons, vehicles and equipment coming back from Southwest Asia since 2009, Col. Gregg Skibicki, chief of the current equipment operations division in the Army’s resourcing directorate, told me today. His office is spearheading the initiative.
It’s a “living document” the Army updates monthly to keep pace with troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. R3 synchronizes “all the [equipment reset] activities from the headquarters all the way through the supply chain” down to the “field level” where the actual repair and reset work takes place, he said. R3 priorities are vetted by all the major combat commands and Army component commands to make sure Army units get what they need, when they need it.
The problem is R3 never coordinated the list of what it needed to fix from the wars in Southwest Asia and what it needs to get ready for the next fight, a yet-to-be released Government Accountability Report claims. “The Army lacks an explicit reset strategy that coordinates equipment requirements with warfighter needs,” according to the report. “There is no metric reported that measures the [need for] long-term reset.” With American troops now coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army simply doesn’t have enough vehicles or gear to support them stateside, GAO says. “The need for equipment will increase as [those] units move into the train [and] ready phase,” according to the report.
GAO analysts acknowledge R3 is a good strategy. But like many things in the Army, the initiative continues to be caught in service red tape. The latest iteration of R3 has yet to be formally approved. And like many things in the Army, individual units are doing what they can to get what they need until the initiative is approved.
Army units rotating back to bases in the United States are “relying on other sourcing methods to fill equipment shortages,” the GAO says. “Units will have to continue to remedy readiness deficiencies through other means and may not have assurance that reset can serve as a reliable source of needed equipment,” according to the report. These ad-hoc fixes will get those units by in the near term, government auditors claim. However they’re only masking the “systematic problems” that lie in the service’s postwar reset plans.
Skibicki dismissed the idea the Army’s overall reset plan is plagued by systematic problems and mired in service bureaucracy as alleged in the GAO report. “There has not been an issue where [R3] has been stuck” in the service’s chain of command, he added. He also dismissed the notion that Army units had to scrounge around for necessary equipment once they were stateside. However he did admit the Army had to push through some growing pains to make the R3 plan work.
At first the Army tried to put all of their reset priorities onto a single to-do list. Service officials eventually realized key reset requirements were being missed because they could not all be covered on one list. “We didn’t realize that for the first six months,” Skibicki said. The R3 plan in place now is broken into two lists. The first list covers the equipment reset needs of units preparing to go into theater. The second list details the reset needs of units who scheduled to come back stateside but have not yet returned. This way Army officials can address unit reset requirements for training and non-combat missions before they come home. They can also make sure a unit has everything they need before they step off, he said. This bookend approach ensures equipment reset needs are known and met before a unit sets one boot onto the battlefield.
The GAO also criticized the Army’s ballooning cost estimates for equipment reset and its apparent lack of oversight of those dollars. Beginning in 2007, the Army received over $32 billion from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill to buy and restore vehicles and equipment lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, “reports do not show whether the Army’s reset execution is consistent with [its] annual planning and budgeting process for reset,” GAO auditors write. Army reports on reset spending do “not distinguish between planned and unplanned reset,” they claim. The Army also has yet to report what its “total reset liability” — or the total cost to rebuild equipment lost in combat – to Congress. Keep reading →
Cherry Point, N.C. — After a decade of continuous combat in Afghanistan and with budget cuts looming, the Marine Corps worry whether its air units can meet their missions at home and abroad.
But one wing commander tells me that his unit and others will be able to fill that bill now and for years to come. Keep reading →
Washington: The Navy, like the rest of the services and the Pentagon, is adamant that all options are on the table when it comes to trimming the service’s bottom line.
But from aircraft carriers to overall force structure cuts, details on those options coming from the Navy have been sparse. And in recent weeks, it seems that each time service officials speak on the issue, the picture gets muddier and muddier. Keep reading →