DoD Adviser: Foes' Advances Might Lead to F-35 Fleet Shrinkage

Published: 29 Jun 2010 14:52
Print Print | Print Email

The Obama administration may have to rethink whether the U.S. militarywill need 2,500 F-35 fighter jets, and needs to craft a clear,prioritized national security strategy, a top Pentagon adviser toldreporters June 29.

The world has changed tremendously since when the F-35 fighter wasdesigned, and potential American foes have acquired systems that couldrender other kinds of U.S. aircraft, missile systems and otherplatforms more useful in certain situations than themultibillion-dollar F-35, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of theWashington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

With possible American enemies, like China, developing and fieldingever-more advanced systems - such as sophisticated radar suites andsurface-to-air missiles - Pentagon and administration officials mustexamine if the Lockheed Martin-made Lightning II will bring as much"value" to combat by the time it comes online next decade as thoughtdecades previous when it was designed, he said.

Though the program has recently been in the spotlight due tosignificant cost growth and schedule delays, the Pentagon plans to buya total of 2,457 of the three F-35 variants. Defense Secretary RobertGates and other senior DoD officials have tethered part of theirlegacies to turning around the program and one day fielding a fleet ofthat size.

But because it might not be as useful from so-called forward air basesor aircraft carriers because of foes' advanced air defenses, theDefense Department might have to swallow hard, buy fewer F-35s and useany savings to buy other aircraft and missiles.

Such alternatives, Krepinevich said, might prove more useful incombating such advanced air defenses. But, he added, "it depends on howwe deal with this problem."

That very question is being studied as part of two ongoing internalPentagon studies: one on the U.S. military's proper global posture, andanother on how it should carry out long-range strike operations, saidKrepinevich, who is a prominent member of the Defense Policy Board.That panel provides advice on a range of key issues directly to thedefense secretary.

Krepinevich described a world that is rapidly changing, driven by a number of demographic and technological trends.

For one, CSBA analysts "see a lot of upset young people" that will betempted to join groups like al-Qaida. That is an increasinglycombustible trend, Krepinevich noted, because "greater and greaterdestructive power" is ending up "in the hands" of such individuals andgroups.

Another emerging threat is the proliferation of both nuclear andprecision-guided weaponry, he said, adding cyber attacks and theincreasing vulnerability of U.S. space assets also will be majordrivers of American security requirements.

Against that backdrop of threats, Krepinevich said the Obamaadministration needs a better overall security strategy. Theadministration does not appear to have put together a detailed, broadlyfocused security plan like the one Washington used to guide its actionsduring the Cold War.

The White House earlier this year released the Obama administration'sfirst National Security Strategy. But that closely parsed study,Krepinevich said, is mostly a "public relations document." To the CSBApresident, it is "striking" that the administration has not puttogether a more detailed version of the NSS.

He spoke to reporters during a briefing on a new CSBA analysis of thefiscal 2011 defense budget request. That study paints a rather bleakpicture.

The study, compiled by CSBA budget guru Todd Harrison, describes a"growing wave of recapitalization requirements for aging equipment nearthe end of service life, despite continued growth in acquisitionfunding."

It also notes the Pentagon's 2011 budget "does little to control risingpersonnel costs for both DoD civilians and military personnel."Harrison also found "healthcare costs in particular continue to growwell above the rate of inflation." That is driven, in large part, bythe "addition of new and expanded benefits and the growing disparitybetween the annual premium military retirees pay for TRICARE (which hasnot risen in 15 years)," the report states.

The administration's intention to reduce the deficit, and the continuedeconomic slowdown, will place external pressures on defense spending.

Harrison sees a series of tough choices ahead for Pentagon officials. And many will pit people versus machines.

"The central challenge for the defense budget in the coming years is tofind the right balance between personnel-related costs, such as pay,pensions, and healthcare, and equipment-related costs, such as newweapon systems and on-going military operations," according to thereport.

"It can also be viewed as an intergenerational question-a choicebetween funding pay and benefits for today's military (and retirees) orfunding the equipment and training needed for those who will fighttomorrow's wars," Harrison wrote. "The fiscal reality is that in a flator declining budgetary environment, the Department will not be able tofund both to the same extent that it does today."

Posted in , . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.

Leave a Reply

Powered by Blogger.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by