Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The DOD Budget:Hard Times,Tough Decisions

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presented the Pentagon's 2015 budget request to the media Monday.Next week,he will go before Congress with the plan.The proposal would shrink spending by more than 75 billion dollars over the next two years,in line with the recent agreement between Congress and the President to limit defence spending to 446 billion dollars over the next two years,cutting the Army by about 80,000 troops from 520,000 today to around 440,000.The Army National Guard and Reserve would take a 5% cut.Not since before World War II has the Army been this small.*
As we end our combat mission in Afghanistan,this will be the first budget that reflects that,Mr.Hagel said,in a world that is growing more volatile,more unpredictable,and in some ways more threatening to the United States.It is guided by an updated defence strategy focused on defending the homeland against all strategic threats.The Department of Defense will continue to shift its forces and focus to the Pacific and maintain its alliances.We must now adapt,innovate and make difficult decisions.*
As a result of large budget cuts,our future force will face additional risk.We chose to terminate or delay some modernisation programs.On March 1,2013,sequestration set in,costing us 37 billion last fiscal year on top of 487 billion in cuts required by a previous act.Two months ago,Congress provided some relief through 2015,but defence spending remains below the President's requests.
While DOD welcomes the measure of relief and stability,it still forces us to cut more than 75 billion dollars,and sequestration remains the law for 2016 and beyond.The military still faces significant modernisation and readiness challenges.Continued sequestration cuts would compromise our national security both over the short and the long term.It would result in a force that is not ready.The resulting force would be too small to implement the President's defence strategy.The proposal balances our national security with the need to be realistic about the budget.
We first focused on management costs.We are paring back contract spending.We cannot achieve our goals without another round of BRAC-base realignment and closure-for 2017.If Congress continues to block this,we will continue to reduce overhead,but this will not be enough.We have to carefully examine our force structure.Our recommendations favour a smaller and more capable force.They have preserved all three legs of the nuclear triad.The forces can project power over great distances and are well-suited to the strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.Special Operations forces for counterterrorism will grow to 69,700 personnel from 66,000 today.*
For the Air Force,we have protected the new bomber,the Joint Strike Fighter and the new refueling tanker.We will also ensure a robust and strong industrial base.We will retire the A-10 fleet,replacing them with the F-35 in the early 2020s.The A-10 cannot survive with more advanced air defence,and its age makes it more difficult to maintain.The Air Force will also retire the 50 year-old U-2 in favour of the unmanned Global Hawk.With its greater range and endurance,it is more effective.
If sequestration is reimposed,the Air Force will have to retire 80 more aircraft and slow down the JSF purchase,as well as take deep cuts to flying hours.*
The proposal will enable the Navy to maintain 11 carrier strike groups.If sequestration remains in 2016,the George Washington will have to be retired before its nuclear refueling.Under the proposal,half of the cruiser fleet will be laid up and modernised for greater capability and lifespan.Two destroyers and one attack submarine a year will continue to be produced.
As for the littoral combat ship,it will be capped at 32 ships instead of 52.I am concerned the Navy is relying too heavily on it.We need to closely examine whether it can operate and survive on its own.It would represent one-sixth of our Navy.We must have platforms that will operate in all environments.I have directed the Navy to design a new frigate/small surface combatant.*
The Marine Corps will draw down to 182,000 from 190,000.If sequstration resumes,it will have to go down to 175,000.We will devote about 900 Marines to embassy security.
The Army will terminate the ground combat vehicle program.I have directed the Army and Marine Corps for more realistic recommendations.
This force would be decisively able to prevail in a ground combat theatre,while actively supporting the Navy and Air Force in another theatre,Secretary Hagel promised.*
In sum,the proposed force would be able to fight 1.5 wars simaltaneously.The Air Force will retire its A-10 ground attack planes and U-2,but preserve its major fighter,bomber and tanker buys,as well as the Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft.The Navy will keep 11 carrier strike groups,cut the littoral combat ship from 52 to 32,modernise its cruisers,and keep building two destroyers and one attack submarine a year,while also designing a new frigate/small surface comabatant.All three legs of the nuclear deterrant will be preserved:sea,air and land.Special Ops forces will grow,but the conventional Army and Marine Corps units will shrink.
As always,Congress must approve this proposed budget,which will probably not happen in total.More likely,bits and pieces of it will be approved over time with modifications.The rest will be delayed or abandoned.One thing is sure:the military will be changed over the next few years as the Afghan War ends and budget cuts are imposed.The question is,how orderly this will be,and hence how much damage will be done to national security.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

USS Donald Cook Reaches New Home

After departing from Norfolk,Virginia on 31 January,the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook(DDG 71) arrived at its new homeport of Rota,Spain on 11 February.The ship is the first of four US Navy destroyers that are being moved to Rota.The USS Ross will follow later in 2014,and the USS Carney and USS Porter in 2015.
These warships have been or will be modified for ballistic missile defence,armed with SM-3 missiles that,together with the shipboard Aegis defence system,can detect,seek and destroy certain types of short and medium range ballistic missiles.A total of 18 Arleigh Burke class destroyers were initially selected for the modification,and more are expected to follow.*
The SM-3 was developed by the Missile Defense Agency from the SM-2 ER Block IV missile for sea-based defence against ballistic missiles in midcourse flight.The upgrade consists of a third stage;a GPS/inertial guidance system;and a Boeing kinetic warhead.
Besides destroyers,the SM-3 will be deployed on guided missile cruisers and Japanese destroyers.A version will also be deployed to European land bases.The SM-3 has intercepted and destroyed several test targets.
The Arleigh Burke class destroyers are also armed with Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles,5-inch guns and torpedoes.*

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Exercise Red Flag:RAAF Arrives at Nellis AFB,Nevada

A robust contingent of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and personnel have arrived at Nellis Air Force Base,Nevada for the multinational Exercise Red Flag 14-1.They are mainly from RAAF Base Williamstown.Participating are about 250 personnel from Number 77 and Number 2 Squadrons,with 7 F/A-18A Hornet fighters and an E7A Wedgetail airborne warning and control aircraft for the complex air combat missions.*
Commander Air Combat Group Air Commadore Tom Grady praised the exercise as being the most advanced international combat air training activity in the world,providing pilots,combat controllers and intelligence officers with the most realistic and demanding tactical training available.It tests and teaches through a rigorous program of day and night missions against a large number of ground threats and adversary air.It provides a level of operational simulation not available in Australia or the region,and regular participation in this Red Flag series of exercises is a major contributor to Australia's high standard of air combat capability.
RAAF Group Captain Robert Chipman is leading the deployment.*
Participating air forces will fly strike,electronic warfare,tactical transport,fighter escort,airborne warning and control,and air to air refueling missions against an extensive range of simulated surface to air threats.It is the premier air-to-air combat exercise,giving pilots the experience of multiple,intensive combat air sorties in the safety of a training environment.*
Also participating in Exercise Red Flag 14-1 are US Air Force F-22 Raptors,F-16 Fighting Falcons,F-15 Eagles,B-2 Spirit bombers and KC-135 tankers.The UK Royal Air Force is represented by Typhoon and Tornado fighters.*
The exercise continues through 14 February.It is especially relevant in light of the recent unrecognised Chinese claims to airspace in the Asia Pacific region.