As long as the United States is fighting in Iraq, the Air Force and the Navy can expect to see their budgets squeezed. Skyrocketing war costs are putting pressure on the Pentagon to cut people out of the services that are least involved in the war, says retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a military professor and analyst. “We are going to move dollars out of every account to fight the war. That’s legitimate,” he tells a Defense News Media Group conference. His advice to the Navy and Air Force: take the cuts and don’t try to be too relevant. “This isn’t your fight,” McCaffrey says. Trying to portray high-tech systems such as the supersonic F-22 fighter as a “terrific counterterrorist weapon” is not smart, he adds. “What we want the Air Force to do is to be two generations ahead of the Chinese when they are a huge global economic and military power, which they are not today.” For the current fight, the F-22 is not needed, McCaffrey says. “We don’t need the F-22 to fight the Iranians. We could sell the Iranians the F-22 and fight them with F-16s and win.”
Politicians Should Help the Troops
Lawmakers are doing a poor job ensuring that U.S. troops have critical equipment for the war on terrorism, says Ralph Peters, a military analyst and commentator. Members of Congress, he adds, should stop “wrapping themselves in the flag and talking about their love for the troops” when their only motivation is to put money in contractors’ pockets.
The military services are spending billions of dollars on programs such as the Army future combat systems and the Air Force F-22 fighter that are draining funds from more pressing needs, such as tankers, cargo and ground-attack aircraft, Peters says. The idea pushed by the Defense Department and defense industry that “our troops should have nothing but the best” is baloney. “If the best isn’t relevant, what good is it?” he asks.
Military Must Learn to Live With Contractors
The Defense Department needs to better prepare military officers to deal with contractors in the battlefield, says Doug Horn, vice president of Halliburton KBR. The company is the largest contractor currently providing logistics services to the military in Iraq. “We don’t train our leaders in the services on their correct role in setting requirements and expectations,” Horn says. When a command sergeant major asks a contractor to do something that is in violation of the terms of the contract, it is difficult both to say no and to explain why it can’t be done, Horn says. “We have to teach in our military schools and train our leaders in their roles and responsibilities in interacting with contractors.”
Even when working in a war zone, contractors have to comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations, he adds. “The FAR does not recognize the realities of the war zone.”
Navy Making Tough Calls in Aviation
The Navy is preparing to substantially delay or cut aircraft programs in next year’s budget, says William M. Balderson, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. The bottom line, he says, is that “we can’t afford all these aircraft,” he tells the National Aeronautics Association. Increasingly, more of the Navy’s funds are being reallocated to pay for rising fuel prices, Iraq war costs and Katrina-related damages, Balderson says. The upshot for aviation is that every program is being “prioritized.”
Those that “definitely can’t slip” include a new maritime patrol aircraft and a new cargo helicopter for the Marine Corps. Among the programs likely to get pushed to the right are unmanned aircraft development programs such as the J-UCAS combat drone and the broad area maritime surveillance aircraft.