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Lockheed Chooses Proven Aircraft for T-X Jet Fighter Trainer Competition
By Allyson Versprille


T-50A

After considering a clean-sheet design for the T-X program to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of T-38 Talon jet trainers, Lockheed Martin has chosen to stick with a modernized version of an aircraft it developed with Korea Aerospace Industries, the company announced Feb. 11. 

The company's entry for the T-X program is the T-50A, an upgrade to the T-50 platform. For the T-X competition, Lockheed is up against clean-sheet proposals from both Northrop Grumman and a Boeing-Saab team, in addition to the T-100 developed by Italy's Alenia Aermacchi and Textron AirLand's new design for the Scorpion, a commercially based aircraft designed for military use. The winner of the Air Force program will replace 350 T-38s with an average age of about 50 years.  

Before deciding on the modernized T-50, the company conducted a study within its Skunk Works division that designs and develops new and advanced technologies. The group was tasked with putting together a clean-sheet proposal for the T-X program, in addition to examining the costs and schedule of taking an existing T-50 and upgrading it, said Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin advanced development programs. 

The study was recently completed and the company decided to cease work on a clean-sheet alternative after finishing 80 percent of the detailed design activities, he noted. The new aircraft "was very capable and it would do everything that the U.S. Air Force is looking for in the T-X aircraft, but when it came down to evaluating that clean-sheet design, we really came to four conclusions" that prompted Lockheed to avoid that route, Weiss said.  

The company found that a clean-sheet proposal would be too costly, result in schedule delays, have too much associated risk and would not increase capability beyond what the T-50 could offer, he said. 

A new design would have been eight times more costly than upgrading the T-50, he noted. Procuring a modernized T-50 would benefit the Air Force's current budget because the aircraft would need little funding for engineering and manufacturing development, he added. Most of the money allotted for the T-X trainer could be transitioned from EMD money to production money with the T-50 offering, he said. That would allow the service to begin buying airplanes earlier. 

Additionally, in order to meet the Air Force's initial operating capability goal of 2024, a clean-sheet design would entail "a substantial and unacceptable amount of concurrency of the development program with the production program, which means you're having to buy airplanes well ahead of where you will be in the development of the program," he said. 

Having the T-X trainer meet that IOC goal is imperative because there is a short window for the platform to be funded before the service hits a budget crunch in the mid-2020s, Weiss said. "Out in the mid-2020 timeframe, a lot of production dollars are going to need to be focused on the KC-46 tanker, the long-range strike bomber and the F-35. So there's a huge demand for production funding out in the mid-20s and the Air Force's idea here was to get the T-X program in now while the budget is available."

Not only does the company think it can meet the 2024 deadline, it believes it can push that timeline up four to five years, Weiss told National Defense following the announcement. "We could basically begin building and delivering airplanes if somebody wanted to make that decision sometime in the mid to late-2017 timeframe," he said. On that schedule, "probably somewhere in 2018 — 2019 latest — you would have" initial operating capability.

The modernized T-50 would reduce risk, according to Weiss, who said there are already 100 of the aircraft flying today, with more than 1,000 trained pilots and 100,000 flight hours. 

The production line that the company is setting up is "warm," he added. "When we say warm, what we are really saying is that the whole supply chain is already active, supporting the T-50s in [South] Korea," he said. "If the U.S. Air Force was to say, 'We want to move forward on a T-50 solution,' we can begin producing airplanes immediately and move them soon there after out of Greenville." The company has selected Greenville, South Carolina, as the final assembly and check-out sight for the program.

To meet Air Force requirements the Lockheed team added new capabilities to the baseline T-50 in a block upgrade, Weiss said. 

Mike Griswold, T-50 business development director for Lockheed Martin, listed those capabilities as inflight refueling, a fifth-generation cockpit, embedded training and an open systems architecture. The additions were tailored to Air Education and Training Command's requirements for the jet trainer replacement, he said. 

To increase commonality between fifth-generation fighters and T-50A, many of the additions are similar to what would be seen on an F-16, F-22 or an F-35, the Lockheed executives said. 

The inflight refueling receptacle is located in the same area as those aircraft "right behind the canopy on the dorsal area," Griswold said. "I think this is very important because that training that the student gets in the T-50A for refueling will transition 100 percent into fifth-generation training."

The cockpit is also similar with the same physical display size and near identical visuals as the F-35 joint strike fighter, he said. 

The company described the embedded training suite as a "flying simulator." It allows the jet trainer to simulate "all the weapons and sensors of the fifth-generation aircraft — the radar, the electronic warfare, the data links, the missiles and bombs," Griswold said. An instructor can introduce different realistic training scenarios with increasing complexity as the student progresses through the program, he said. It enables the student to experience these different scenarios, while also reducing costs, he noted. 

The last addition, the open architecture piece, enables the service to make changes to the mission systems suite without having to go back and consult with the original equipment manufacturer, Griswold said. 

Weiss said, "The development is near complete today and within months we'll have that block upgrade into two of the T-50 aircraft." The two production aircraft, which will consist of the same configuration that the company would delivery to the Air Force, would be ready for a flight evaluation by the service sometime late summer or early fall. The aircraft will attain production-ready status by the end of 2016, he said. 

The major structural components of the Lockheed trainer — the airframe, fuselage, tails and wings — will be assembled overseas in South Korea and then transferred to the facility in Greenville for final assembly, the executives said. Most of the missions systems will be made within the United States including the ground-based training system, which will be developed by Lockheed, and the engine, which is manufactured by General Electric. 

Request for proposals for the T-X trainer competition are expected this September. Lockheed plans to have its proposal submitted by the end of December, Griswold said. 

Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Air Force Outlines Future Space Launch Plans
By Jon Harper


Atlas V rocket

The Air Force has developed a strategy to acquire new space launch systems, including replacing a Russian-made rocket engine with one that is domestically produced.

Service officials outlined their plan during a roundtable with reporters on Feb. 11 to discuss the recently released fiscal year 2017 budget request. The proposal includes about $5.5 billion in Air Force space investment, an increase of approximately $250 million — or 4.5 percent — over the fiscal year 2016 request.

The money will fully fund the evolved expandable launch vehicle program, which helps put payloads into orbit, said Winston Beauchamp, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space.

EELV “will preserve our ability to access space [while] investing in an indigenously produced launch capability,” he said. “This serves not only as a capability to replenish space assets as they reach end of life, but also to improve our capabilities and reconstitute our forces.”

As tensions have increased between Washington and Moscow, Congress has directed the Defense Department to stop using Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines as soon as possible. The engines power the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, which are part of the EELV program. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“We are working diligently towards that objective … [but] there’s a lot of work to be done by [U.S.] industry,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, director of space programs in the office of the assistant secretary for acquisition. “To get off of that [RD-180] engine it’s important that first our U.S. technical industrial base build itself up back up and restore excellence in hydrocarbon engines.”

The Air Force laid out a multi-phased approach.

“The first step is to try to shore up the industrial base and take … the technical maturation and risk reduction activities necessary to build up that industrial base,” Teague said. “Then take the efforts of that tech maturation work and be able to have it explore or support any and all competitor launch service providers who would be able to take advantage of those key technologies, and provide it in support of a rocket propulsion system or engine … That engine work then helps transport transitions to our next step, which is a launch system development.”

SpaceX and ATK Launch Systems were recently awarded contracts to develop rocket propulsion system prototypes. For now, the Air Force says ULA needs to continue using the RD-180.

“We’re trying to manage this transition period until we get the new family next-generation of launch systems certified and able to support our requirement,” Teague said. “Until that happens, and in order to promote competition, ULA would need to have access to the RD-180 engine to be able to competitively compete with SpaceX and their Falcon 9. And so if the direction is we’re going to get off RD-180 now and we will have no further access or authorization to use any additional RD-180 engines, then we’re going to have to look at a different strategy to be able to satisfy our launch manifest requirement until those new entrants are satisfied.”

The Air Force is looking for a complete launch system capability, not just a rocket engine. Teague noted. The service is trying to promote technology maturation “to evolve from … new engine technologies, to a launch system, to ultimately launch services and certified launch capabilities — and that’s our end state [and] what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

But Congress has created a roadblock that could impede progress toward the Air Force’s ultimate goal.

“We have some restrictions in the [fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act] that limit … our additional work beyond a current rocket propulsion system,” Teague said. “We’re working with Congress to try to … be able to move forward. But the intent is to then proceed to the next phase and … solicit proposals for launch systems and then evaluate that as part of a total launch solution and then finally be able to select … at least two national security space launch systems.”

The Air Force hopes to have next-generation launch systems ready to be fielded and certified for use to support national security space missions by 2022, he said.

Photo Credit: Air Force
Navy Halts Funding for Northrop Grumman’s Carrier-Based Combat Drone
By Sandra I. Erwin





As it reconsiders its unmanned aviation strategy, the Navy has decided to cease funding the X-47B bat-winged drone that made aviation history in recent years.

The first-ever autonomous unmanned aircraft to be launched from and recovered on a carrier deck, the X-47B, is likely to run out of funding by the end of fiscal year 2016. The Navy has not requested money for the program in its fiscal year 2017 budget.

The X-47B remains in “standby status” at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland, Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager, told National Defense Feb. 10 in a statement.

There is still a chance, however, that the aircraft could fly again, he said. The Navy received $250 million in fiscal year 2016 for “risk reduction activities” for a future drone known as the unmanned carrier launched strike and surveillance, or UCLASS. The Naval Air Systems Command will “evaluate what surrogate aircraft activities, including further X-47B operations, are cost effective to meet these risk reduction goals,” Duarte said.

The latest decision regarding the X-47B caps off a complex turn of events for this program since the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a contract in 2007 to build a carrier combat drone.  

The company produced two of the tail-less, strike fighter-sized unmanned aircraft — dubbed Salty Dog 501 and Salty Dog 502. The Navy was ready to mothball them in the summer of 2015 and send them to an aviation museum, but reversed course in the face of congressional backlash. Lawmakers chided the Navy for abandoning the program at a time when other nations are rushing to develop advanced combat drones and anti-ship missiles that would make long-range aircraft like the X-47B more valuable in a future war.

The X-47B in August 2014 took off and landed alongside a manned F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter. In April 2015, it made aviation history again with the successful completion of the first-ever autonomous aerial refueling of an unmanned aircraft.

The Naval Air Systems Command extended Northrop Grumman’s unmanned combat air systems demonstration contract through the end of calendar year 2015. The Navy spent $1.5 billion on the unmanned combat aircraft demonstration over the past eight years.

A Northrop Grumman spokeswoman declined to comment on the 2017 budget decision.

Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman vice president of advanced air warfare, told reporters last month during a media tour of the company’s aviation facilities in Palmdale, California, that he was hopeful the Navy would continue to fund the X-47B.

The aircraft has only flown a fraction of its projected service life, he said. “It’s a 55,000-pound airplane, carries 4,000 pounds of bombs. And there is room for additional sensors.” The achievements of this aircraft are extraordinary, but more work is needed to push the technology further, Winship said. “You can’t say that landing and taking off a carrier 15 times or plugging a probe/drogue one time proves that it works operationally,” but more testing and experimentation could help the Navy gain confidence that unmanned aircraft can be integrated into the carrier wing, he added. The next step would be to make them fly in a combat-realistic scenario. “We always did our takeoffs and landings aboard a clean deck, in calm seas, with nobody else around, only watching one airplane come onboard, that’s not the operational type of dance the Navy does.”

With more time and effort, the X-47B could show Navy leaders the art of the possible, he said. “We’ve outlined a plan to finish the program we started in 2007 that was truncated.”

The airplane was designed for 16,000 hours of service, Winship said. As a prototype, it would be allowed to fly just 4,000 hours, but the Navy only agreed to 400 hours, he explained, “Because we didn’t build a full scale ‘bend and break’ article.” So far, “We’ve used 70 hours of the 400.” The airplanes that are now at Patuxent River, Winship said, have 80 percent of their life left.

The apparent end of the X-47B program comes as the Navy rethinks its broader strategy for deploying unmanned aircraft aboard big-deck carriers. Officials announced this week that the UCLASS program is morphing from a strike/surveillance drone to a carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling tanker. The new initiative, known as a carrier-based aerial-refueling system, or CBARS, is seen as a potential “combat multiplier” for the air wing that would help to extend the range of manned Navy fighters.


PHOTO: The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration conducts flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

DARPA’s 130-Foot Crewless Ship to Set Sail in Spring (UPDATED)
By Stew Magnuson 
 


The Defense Department’s agency devoted to cutting-edge technologies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has big plans for 2017, including the launch of a 130-foot autonomous ship that will begin sailing the seas this year.
 
The Obama administration requested $2.973 billion for DARPA for fiscal year 2017, the same amount in its 2016 request, and $105 more than what was appropriated, said DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar. That amounts to only 2 percent of federal R&D expenditures, but the organization has had a large impact, she added.
 
“We are an organization that has been designed from the beginning to take risk and manage risk in pursuit of off-scale impact,” she said.
 
The funding will go toward three major strategic areas: rethinking complex military systems; mastering the information explosion; and developing the seeds of new technological surprise, she told reporters Feb. 10 during a briefing at DARPA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
 
As for the first category, Steve Walker, DARPA deputy director, said, “We need to continue to think how to build highly capable military systems, especially to prepare for fights with highly capable adversaries.”
 
The military can’t continue to rely on big, monolithic weapons systems that take years to develop. It will never have them in time or in the numbers required to fight advanced adversaries, Walker said.

“We need to mix it up. We need to build war-fighting architectures that are more heterogeneous in nature, hard to target and rely on smaller and cheaper microelectronics technologies," he said.
 
One example is the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel which will be the largest unmanned surface vehicle ever built at 130-feet long, Walker said. It will be christened in April in Portland, Oregon, and then begin to demonstrate its long-range capabilities over 18 months in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command.
 
“Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles,” Walker said.
 
“We think the real cost savings will be in operating this vessel at sea compared to how we operate vessels today,” he added. It could be used for counter-mine missions, reconnaissance and resupply, he added.
 
Another program is the distributed battle management system, which is intended to exchange information even in a jammed environment, he said.
 
DARPA also has a goal to launch 100 satellites in a 10-day period with its XS-1 reusable launch system. “You can imagine an adversary doing something offensive in space and having that kind of responsive capability,” Walker said.
 
In the commercial world, there would be tremendous savings for launching that number of spacecraft in that amount of time, he added. More and more, the technologies the agency develops aren’t exclusively for the military. DARPA was an early backer of SpaceX and its Falcon rocket system. It’s a commercial launch provider, but its lower cost services are now benefitting the military, he noted.
 
The second category, mastering the information explosion, is separated into two categories: big data for security problems and cybersecurity, Prabhakar said.
 
In big data, DARPA wants to “empower the end users of data with tools that allow them to create deep value from all these bytes that are just flying at them,” she said. The MUSE program, Mining and Understanding Software Enclaves, is a big data approach to writing software.
 
As for cybersecurity, “attack entry points are growing,” she said. “We don’t think there is a silver bullet but we believe that major advances can be made.”
 
One idea is to “take whole classes of vulnerabilities off the table” in the High Assurance Cyber Military System. Defense Department systems are “chock full of embedded processors,” she said. They may not appear to be connected to the network, but there are ways in, Prabhakar said.
 
One experiment created a new secure microkernel chip, which was placed in the mission computer of a Little Bird helicopter for a “cyber retrofit.” The chip gave the computer a new security foundation. A red team of hackers tried everything they could to get in the system, but couldn’t. “We made it as easy for them as we could and even gave them source code, but they were not able to break into the system,” Prabhakar said. They were then given full access to one of the applications, a camera, but still couldn’t bust into the mission computer, she said.
 
The third category, “developing the seeds of new technological surprise,” comprises many different disciplines and programs, she said. The AC/DC program, for example, turns chemical weapons into fertilizer, she said.
 
In neuroscience, the advanced prosthetics program recently had a big breakthrough when a paralyzed man — with the assistance of electrodes implanted in his cortex — could receive signals from a prosthetic arm. That allowed him to have the sensation of touch for the first time, she said.
 
Prabhakar said she was excited about the possibilities of the new Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility Exploiting Active Light Fields, or REVEAL, program.
 
Photons that hit cameras or sensors register light intensity and spectral information. But those photons could have come from different light sources. As they go through the environment, they are bouncing off and interacting with all sorts of surfaces, she said.

“By the time they get to that sensor, they have actually had these rich and full lives,” Prabhakar said.
 
REVEAL will see if sensors can capture much more of the information that those photons are bringing — time of arrival, angle of arrival and other characteristics — which may show what is behind an object, or be able to create 3D models of the scene, she said.

Correction: A previous version of the story misspelled the name of the XS-1 program.

Photo Credit: DARPA
Marine Corps Prioritizes Joint Strike Fighter in Flat 2017 Budget Request (UPDATED)
By Allyson Versprille


F-35B

President Obama’s 2017 budget request for the Marine Corps released Feb. 9 includes a small increase over last year’s funding, while continuing to procure expensive F-35B joint strike fighters.

The Marine Corps is requesting a total of $23.4 billion base funding, only about $200 million more than was enacted in 2016. The base budget includes $12.8 billion for military personnel, $6 billion for operations and maintenance and $1.4 billion for procurement. The Marine Corps' request is a small piece of the Navy's total fiscal year 2017 base funding of $155.4 billion.

The Corps has requested $1.6 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding, which is about $100 million less than the service received in fiscal year 2016. Of that total about $1.2 billion will go toward operations and maintenance, $124 million to procurement and $183 million to military personnel.

The Marine Corps' largest procurement effort continues to be the F-35B joint strike fighter program. In fiscal year 2016 the service received funding for 15 short takeoff and vertical landing variants. For 2017, the Marine Corps is asking for 16 F-35Bs. The multi-role strike fighter will replace the Marine Corps' aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and the F/A-18 Hornet A/B/C/D variants.

The rotary wing aircraft request saw some reductions over 2016 levels.
"FY17 reflects small decreases in AH-1Z and MV-22B aircraft for fiscal balancing," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. William Lescher during a budget briefing Feb. 9.

The Marine Corps requested 16 MV-22B Ospreys, three fewer than it received in 2016.  The fiscal year 2017 base budget supports the procurement of 24 AH-1Z attack and UH-1Y utility helicopters, five fewer than the service received in last year's budget.

However, the Marines will begin procuring the new CH-53K King Stallion in 2017. The heavy-lift cargo helicopter will replace the Marine Corps' CH-53E Super Stallion, which first entered the fleet in 1980. The first two low-rate initial production aircraft are slated for fiscal year 2017, which is consistent with the previous budget. The service still plans to procure four of the helicopters in fiscal year 2018, seven in 2019, 13 in 2020 and 14 in 2021.

As for shipbuilding, the proposed budget includes $1.6 billion for the procurement of one amphibious warfare assault ship in fiscal year 2017. Additionally, two ship-to-shore connectors have been requested in 2017 at cost of $128 million. The connector serves as a replacement for the landing craft air cushion, which is reaching the end of its service life and provides Marines with the capability to move assault forces from amphibious ships to the beach.

The amphibious ship number total will grow to 33 ships by fiscal year 2019, Lescher noted, which includes: the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship funded in fiscal year 2017; the first LX(R) dock landing ship replacement funded in 2020; the delivery of the USS Portland, LPD-27, in 2017; and the delivery of the USS Tripoli, LHA-7, in 2019.  

The Marine Corps' request of $1.4 billion for its general procurement efforts will help fund the service's joint light tactical vehicle. For the program, the Marine Corps is requesting $113 million in fiscal year 2017 procurement funds. That request will go toward increased production of the platform, associated kits and delivery to receiving units in support of initial operating capability, which is scheduled for fiscal year 2018.

The procurement request will also fund the service's ground/air task oriented radar, which is designed to detect cruise missiles, air breathing targets, rockets, mortars and artillery, Lescher said. "The Marine Corps continues to balance ground equipment procurement and future development to ensure that Marines are supported in the current fight, while modernizing to dominate future fights." 


In the 2017 budget request, the Marine Corps is also asking for $787 million for research, development, test and evaluation. That money will go toward the service's amphibious combat vehicle program, which is aiming to build a new fighting vehicle to replace the service's aging fleet of amphibious assault vehicles. The program has been structured to provide a phased, incremental capability. The fiscal year 2017 budget will support the engineering, manufacturing and developments contracts that were awarded to BAE Systems and SAIC in November. This funding will include the delivery of 32 test vehicles, test and evaluation activities and associated program support, said the budget report.

The service's end strength remained flat at 182,000 active duty Marines from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2017. That number is expected to stay the same through the FYDP. This drop completes the overall drawdown from 202,786 Marines that began in fiscal year 2009. The service's Reserve decreased slightly from 38,900 Marines in fiscal year 2016 to 38,500 Marines in 2017.

Update: Story updated to include comments from Rear Adm. William Lescher.


Photo Credit: Defense Dept.
Army 2017 Budget Request Focuses on Threats in Europe (UPDATED)
By Yasmin Tadjdeh



As the Army focuses on potential conflicts in Europe, many of its modernization programs are being cut.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request released Feb. 9 requested a total of $148 billion — $125 billion in the base budget and $23 billion in oversea contingency funding for the Army. The 2017 base budget request is $1.4 billion less than what was enacted in fiscal year 2016. The request is “protecting current readiness at the expense of future modernization and end strength,” budget documents said.

In the base budget, the Army requested $55.3 billion for military personnel; $45.2 billion for operation and maintenance; $15.1 billion for procurement; and $7.5 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation.

OCO funds include $2.2 billion for military personnel; $13.8 billion for operation and maintenance accounts; $2.4 billion for procurement; and $100 million for RDT&E. The OCO boost comes a time of great uncertainty in Europe as Russia continues to exert its influence globally.

A total of $2.8 billion of the Army’s OCO funding will go toward the European Reassurance Initiative —  supplemental funding designed to thwart Russian aggression — a significant boost over 2016 enacted levels of $509 million. The Army is asking for $727 million for increased presence, $50 million to build partner capacity and $89 million for additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training.

According to budget documents, this funding will increase “warfighting capacity on the continent through increase prepositioned equipment stocks [and] continues to provide rotational aviation capacity to the European command area of responsibility.”

During a 
Pentagon press conference, Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, director of Army budget, told reporters that the boost would help fund increased troop presence.

"We're going to do ... some heel-to-toe rotations, so where there is no gap or seams between when one unit rotates in and departs and another one follows behind it," he said.

Additionally, compared to last year there are many more exercises between the United States and its allies in Europe. "I know they [the allies] are really excited and appreciative of this," he said.

Horlander said some tough choices had to be made because of budget constraints.

"The only growth from FY 16 to '17 is in our operation and maintenance accounts," he said. "This is the funding primarily used to generate current readiness. Resourcing constraints did not allow us to modernize our equipment and facilities at the same pace as we sought to minimize the risk to current readiness."

As the Army built its 2017 budget, it kept readiness at the forefront, he added. Calling it the service's number one priority, Horlander said the Army has a goal to keep two-thirds of its regular Army forces ready at any one time.

One area that suffered in the 2017 budget was acquisition. Total procurement dollars in the 2017 budget request dropped by $906 million.

A total of $3.9 billion was allocated toward aircraft programs, which had a cut of $2 billion from 2016. The Army plans to reduce purchases of key helicopters. It requested 48 AH-64E remanufactured Apaches, 36 UH-60M Black Hawks and 22 CH-47 Chinooks, down significantly from the enacted 2016 numbers of 64 Apaches, 107 Black Hawks and 39 Chinooks. 

While aviation programs bore much of the burden, Horlander said the Army tried to keep the accounts as stable as possible.

"[We] obviously had to balance that against the entire portfolio," he said. However, "we had a great advantage with some of these multi-year contracts for the Apache and the Black Hawk."

Horlander remained adamant that despite the cuts, the Army made the best of a bad situation when selecting where to cut modernization accounts.  

Spending for 
weapons and tracked combat vehicles declined slightly in the 2017 budget request. The 2017 request would decrease funding by $19 million for a total of $2.4 billion, including the base budget and OCO funds. This will go toward upgrades to the Stryker vehicle as well as modifications to the Abrams tank.

Tactical and support vehicle spending went down in the base budget by $119 million in the 2017 budget for a total of $3.3 billion. A significant portion of the budget will be devoted to funding the joint light tactical vehicle. A total of $587 million will go toward low-rate initial production of 1,828 vehicles and “supports the continuation of the JLTV test program to include production qualification test and reliability qualification test in support of initial operational capability scheduled for FY 2018.”

Spending on electronics and communication devices was also bolstered in the budget. Overall spending, including base budget and OCO, went from $3.4 billion in 2016 to a requested $3.9 billion for 2017, an increase of $471 million.

Spending for RDT&E received a small boost, going from $7.56 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $7.62 in the fiscal year 2017 request. Key investments include “combat vehicle and automotive technology, joint multi-role helicopter and high-energy lasers,” according to budget documents.

All three components of the Army — the regular, the National Guard and the Reserve — continue to draw down in end strength. The service requested 990,000 troops for fiscal year 2017, which is a cut of 25,000 from what was authorized in fiscal year 2016. It plans to cut an additional 10,000 soldiers in fiscal year 2018.

Horlander noted that while the Army faces a tight budget, it is also dealing with a slew of conflicts around the world. From Russian aggression to the Islamic State, the service is being pulled in a number of directions, he said.

"In just the past several years, we have seen a number of emergent operations that require American soldiers to deploy and operate for extended periods of times for contingency operations. Some of these were not even anticipated a year earlier," he said. "The world's security environment is changing so fast that the Army needs predictable and consistent funding across its entire funding portfolio year after year to keep pace with these changes, to protect [against] both current and future threats to America's national security interest."

Cutting back on modernization and science and technology puts the Army's technological dominance at risk, he said.

"I can't overemphasize that in order to have a formidable ground force capable of generating the requisite combat power to support our combatant commanders, both today and tomorrow the Army must achieve a greater balance between readiness, end strength and modernization," he said.

This post has been updated to include comments from an Army press briefing.

Photo: AH-64E (Army)
2017 Budget Request Boosts Navy Fleet
By Jon Harper
 


The Navy plans to buy seven battle ships in fiscal year 2017, as the service continues to grow its fleet in the face of increasing threats.
 
The move would increase the deployable battle force from 280 ships at the end of 2016 to 287 ships in 2017. Over the course of the future years defense plan, or FYDP, which covers fiscal years 2017 to 2021, the battle force would increase to 308 ships, according to the Navy’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, released on Feb. 9. During that period, the service plans to spend $97.3 billion on shipbuilding, procuring 38 battle force ships as well as 55 amphibious vessels and other platforms.
 
The Navy is asking for a total budget of $139.9 billion for 2017 including $7.9 billion for overseas contingency operations and $18.4 billion for shipbuilding procurement. The $132 billion base budget amount is $4.9 billion less than was appropriated for the service in fiscal year 2016. Much of that decrease is due to a decline in spending on aircraft procurement.
 
The Navy’s OCO funding would increase $200 million in 2017, from $9.3 billion in 2016 to $9.5 billion. Total funding for the department, which includes money for the Marine Corps, would be $8.2 billion less than the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget anticipated for 2017.
 
Over the next five years, the Navy plans base budget spending of $826.4 billion.
That would fund seven new-build ships in fiscal year 2017: two Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines; two Arleigh Burke class destroyers; two littoral combat ships; and one amphibious warfare assault ship.
 
Thirteen battle force ships are slated for delivery in 2017 including: two Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines; four littoral combat ships; two expeditionary fast transports; one amphibious transport dock; three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; and one Zumwalt-class destroyer. Six ships are scheduled for retirement, and the long-term LCS program would be cut from 52 ships to 40.
 
Over the course of the FYDP, the shipbuilding construction program includes funding for: advanced procurement for the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine program; procurement of the lead ship in the Ohio-class replacement; detailed design and construction of the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, and advanced procurement for the third ; nine Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines; 10 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; seven littoral combat ships/fast frigates; one amphibious warfare assault ship; one LX(R) amphibious ship; four fleet oilers; 42 ship-to-shore connectors; and 11 landing craft utility replacements.
 
For fiscal year 2017, $14.1 billion requested for aircraft procurement would buy: four F-35C joint strike fighters; two F/A-18E/F Super Hornets; six E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes; 11 P-8A Poseidons; and 11 unmanned aerial vehicles. Over the course of the FYDP, the Navy plans to procure 476 aircraft including: 64 F-35Cs; 16 F/A-18E/Fs; 23 E-2Ds; 30 P-8As; and 53 UAVs.
 
In fiscal year 2017, $3.2 billion would go toward weapons procurement, including Tomahawks, Standard Missile-6s and MK 48 torpedoes.
 
Active duty end strength would decline by 4,400 personnel, to 322,900, while Reserve end strength would increase by 600 to 58,000. Civilian manpower would increase by 1,800 to 181,600. Military basic pay and civilian pay would increase by 1.6 percent.
 
The fiscal year 2017 request includes: $42.1 billion for procurement; $40.4 billion for operations and maintenance; $17.3 billion for research, development, test and evaluation; and $29.9 billion for active duty and Reserve personnel.
 
The budget request makes a veiled reference to the threat posed by China to help justify spending.
 
“Today’s global security environment is characterized by the rising importance of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the ongoing development and fielding of anti-access/area denial capabilities that challenge our global maritime access … [and] the increasing frequency of maritime territorial disputes,” the document said.
 
The need for modernization was given special emphasis, as other powers enhance their military capabilities.
 
“The department has been challenged to build the capability for full-spectrum warfighting to deter high-end adversaries,” the Pentagon said. “This budget takes calculated risk in balancing today’s requirements and those required to counter 21st century threats, with gaps in training and maintenance that creates readiness risks in the event of a major contingency. The department prioritizes investments in modernization efforts to recapitalizes our forces.”

Photo Credit: Navy

Air Force 2017 Budget Request Preserves Major Development Programs, Cuts F-35A Procurement (UPDATED)
By Stew Magnuson



The Obama administration’s 2017 budget request released Feb. 9 for the Air Force seeks to preserve funding for two of its top three development programs, the new long-range bomber and aerial refueling tanker, while cutting acquisition of the F-35A.
 
The Air Force request for fiscal year 2017 is $120.4 billion, a small increase of $1.3 billion over the enacted funding for 2016.
 
It also requests an additional $12.3 billion in overseas contingency operations funding, which is an increase of $2.2 billion over what it received in 2016. The Air Force is seeking to procure 24 MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in the OCO budget, while not funding any in its baseline budget. It has traditionally funded procurement of the aircraft in its base budget.
 
The “bill payer” for the Air Force this year will be five F-35A joint strike fighters, which are being deferred “due to fiscal constraints,” the budget document said. The service is requesting the procurement of 43 F-35As in 2017. The overall F-35A budget will be reduced to $5.2 billion in 2017 from the $6 billion enacted in 2016. Over is future years development program through 2021, the Air Force plans to cut 45 F-35As for a total savings of $4.9 billion.

Air Force Deputy for Budget Carolyn M. Gleason said that will not affect the program of record to procure 1,763 aircraft. Acquisition will ramp up again beginning in 2021, she said. Because of the numerous foreign customers and service partners, the lower procurement was not expected to drive up the cost of the aircraft, she said.  "Right now we don't expect the reduction in quantities to affect the cost per platform."
 
The Air Force is also seeking to cut 20 of the number of C-130H transport aircraft it flies, which will reduce excess capacity and free up resources to invest in the remaining fleet, the budget document said. The modernization efforts include new center wing boxes, avionic modernization flight management systems and multi-function displays. 

In addition to the F-35A and C-130H reductions, the Air Force will let needed infrastructure and information technology updates slide, said Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Maj. Gen. James F. Martin. That will continue to degrade readiness, he said. 

"If sequestration returns in FY 18, we will be faced with another multi-billion dollar shortfall to solve in one year and we will be unable to plan for the capabilities we will need in the future," said Martin, who in the middle of the briefing at the Pentagon appeared to be under some kind of medical distress, and had to depart.   
 
The troubled next-generation GPS III navigation satellite program is in store for major restructuring. The program, which was supposed to see its first launch this year, will delay procurement of the first spacecraft to 2018 “to support the pursuit of a new competitive acquisition strategy.” GPS III’s OCX payload, the cornerstone of the modernization program, has been mired in development delays. Research, development, testing and evaluation of the payload will increase from $349 million in 2016 to $393 million in 2017. 

Gleason said the program would be set back 24 months. "The delay does of course, drive up costs and our budget does reflect that," she said.
 
As for other space programs, the budget supports the completion of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite fleet with the procurement of the fifth and sixth spacecraft at $646 million. There is also $363 million in funding for two space-based infrared systems satellites, which are used for detecting missile launches.  
 
Other than the F-35A, the service’s other two top development programs will see boosts. The Air Force intends to acquire 15 of the new Boeing-built KC-46 tankers. Those, plus other development work, will increase its budget from $2.4 billion in 2016 to $3.05 billion in 2017. As for research and development, there is a big plus-up for the long-range strike bomber. The Air Force is requesting $1.3 billion in 2017, nearly double the $736 million it is spending in 2016.
 
The budget supports continued work on recapitalizing the joint surveillance target attack radar system, JSTARS, which has been identified as one of the service’s top acquisition priorities. The new aircraft are expected to enter service by 2024. However, Gleason said "the program has had some struggles and we have extended the risk reduction program." The engineering, manufacturing and development phase has been pushed back one year. "We're going to get that program back on track," she said. The Air Force was in the process of amending JSTARS' cost estimates, she added.
 
Two aircraft the service had sought to retire, the U-2 and A-10, have gained temporary reprieves in the face of congressional criticism. The U-2 spy plane will be supported through 2019, the Air Force said, which is in accordance with Congresses wishes not to see any of the aircraft retired until they can be replaced with the RQ-4 Block 30 high-altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft.
 
As previously reported, the controversial decision to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II tactical fighter aircraft is being delayed until 2022. Previous budget requests sought to divest the Warthog fleet, which ran into opposition in Congress. The A-10 will then transition to the F-35A. Martin said it will cost the Air Force $3.4 billion to keep the Warthog in the inventory over the next five years.
 
The Air Force request fully funds the recapitalization of the presidential aircraft, better known as Air Force One, with a goal of replacing the current aircraft by 2024.
 
The service will also seek to replace its aging Vietnam era UH-1N light lift utility helicopters, which it uses to provide security at it s intercontinental ballistic missile sites. It will procure a commercial-off-the-shelf or government off the shelf aircraft, the document said. The services other major rotary-wing program, the combat rescue helicopter, is also fully funded, with a projected initial operating capability in 2021. The program’s R&D account would nearly double from $156 million in 2016 to $319 in the 2017 request. 

Updated to included comments from Air Force officials.
 
Photo: F-35A (Air Force)

Obama’s Last Defense Budget Under Fire From All Sides
By Sandra I. Erwin



The defense budget proposal for the final year of the Obama presidency has no surprises, as the top line was already set in October as part of a two-year deal between the White House and congressional leaders.

The $582.7 billion request gives the Pentagon 2.2 percent more money than last year. It includes $523.9 billion for base discretionary spending and $58.8 billion for overseas contingency operations, or OCO. Defense gets a $2.2 billion increase in the 2017 base budget compared to $521.7 billion in 2016. OCO last year was $58.6 billion.

But even before it was released Feb. 9, the Obama request already was coming under attack on multiple fronts. Republican leaders of defense committees have blasted the funding proposal as inadequate to combat growing threats and to shore up the armed forces, which they say are stretched-thin. Deficit hawks are raising alarms about the budget deal busting spending caps. And critics on the left are calling into question proposals to increase the defense budget without demanding more accountability for how the money is spent.  

The 2017 budget bookends an area of rapidly shifting security crises and bitter partisanship in Washington that put the Pentagon in the crossfire between defense and deficit hawks. After a five-year decline in defense spending of about 5 percent annually on average — the 2011 Budget Control Act cut about $500 billion over 10 years although spending caps were raised three times — this year’s budget marks a return to stability and modest growth, budget documents show. Defense spending peaked in fiscal year 2010 at almost $700 billion, which included almost $140 billion for OCO. 

Defense officials describe this year's budget as one that drives change as the military adjusts to a new strategic era. “Today's security environment is dramatically different than the one we've been engaged with for the last 25 years and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook. 

A number of high-tech programs funded in the 2017 budget position the military to dominate potential rivals like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea with investments in undersea, cyber, space, electronic warfare and other advanced technologies, officials said. Of the branches of the military, the Air Force is the only one that gets a sizable funding increase of 5.5 percent. 

Most of the OCO budget — $41.7 billion — is for the Afghanistan war. There is also $7.5 billion for the conflict against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and $3.4 billion to shore up European defense efforts against Russian aggression. 

The administration is requesting $183.9 billion for new weapons and technology — $174 billion in the base budget and $9.9 billion in OCO. Of the total, $112.1 billion is for procurement and $71.8 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation. Compared to 2016, the Pentagon is spending less on procurement — $118.6 billion was appropriated last year — and slightly more on RDT&E, which got $70 billion last year.

“This budget marks a major inflection point for the Department of Defense,” said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. “Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come in 10, 20 or 30 years. 

But Washington insiders are playing down the significance of these statements. “I look upon this budget as a one-off,” said Steve Bell, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee. “I don’t think one year’s budget really does determine what the next five to 10 years are.”

Carter’s proposal can be viewed as a “peace offering” to Congress because it reverses decisions that have upset lawmakers in the past, such as retiring the A-10 aircraft and ending procurements of Navy Super Hornet jets, he said. The hope is that Congress will respond positively by adding $15 billion to $20 billion to the top line. 

But the idea that this budget marks some sort of transformational shift in priorities and strategy is at best an exaggeration, Bell said. “I would look upon this budget as a one or two-year response to the environment we face now.”

Lawmakers clearly see that there is not enough money to expand military presence in the Pacific and Eastern Europe, and the defense committees are frustrated by the mismatch, Bell noted. So the Pentagon’s budget is going to be attacked both by defense hawks for failing to fund the strategy and by fiscal conservatives for seeking to bust the budget caps. “I think the strategic kinds of questions in the budget are going to be lost in the political kinds of questions,” said Bell.

Defense committee chairs Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, will call for additional money, but there is no guarantee the appropriators will play along, he said. “I expect a fight on the appropriations side. If they insist on breaking the budget act, there will be a big fight and the administration will have to give up some money in the non-defense arena,” he added. “That’s going to be a real scuffle.”

Thornberry and 33 other members of the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 8 sent the required “views and estimates” letter to the House Budget Committee with an emphatic request for more defense dollars. 

“We believe that an adequate national defense requires significantly more funding,” said the letter. Compared to last year’s budget request that set 2017 base requirements at $574 billion, the proposal submitted by the Pentagon is $23 billion short. The October budget deal set a $551 billion top line for the so-called 050 account that includes the Pentagon and defense-related parts of Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security. In last year’s budget request, the administration sought $573 billion for 050.  

The concern is that a smaller 050 budget will “trickle down” into the Pentagon’s funding and squeeze the military, said Justin Johnson, senior defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation. The HASC is making the case that the Pentagon is underfunded by $23 billion in 2017, compared to a smaller gap of $15 billion cited by Pentagon officials. 

HASC and SASC leaders worry that the OCO funding for European initiatives and the ISIS war will eat into the Pentagon’s base budget, Johnson said. How the fiscally conservative House Budget Committee handles HASC concerns remains to be seen. 

“The budget committee has a lot of work ahead,” said Johnson. It could decide to break the firewall between defense and non-defense and allow the military to get more money without busting the overall discretionary funding caps. But the administration and congressional Democrats are likely to fight back on that, said Johnson. “I don’t see how Republicans have any other way to do it.” Even an OCO increase will get pushback from fiscal hawks.

“We understand the challenges of the current fiscal environment,” Thornberry said. “We should also recognize that the [budget deal] was passed before the Paris attacks by ISIS. Operational needs have only increased.”

Defense committees would like for the administration to make up any difference between the request it submitted last year for fiscal year 2017 and this new request by adding more money to the OCO accounts, which aren’t subject to the caps. The argument that this year’s negotiated OCO level of about $59 billion was intended as a floor, rather than a ceiling. 

The president’s budget request does not add funds to accommodate the $7.5 billion in additional funding to counter ISIS or the $3.4 billion to deter Russia, said Thornberry. "I am disappointed that this request does not adhere to the budget agreement made just last fall,” he said in a statement. “I hoped such an agreement would provide some budget stability and begin to rebuild our military. Unfortunately, this administration continues to play budgetary games with our country’s security."

Pro-defense lawmakers led by Thornberry will be arguing for additional money for the military as fiscal conservatives are poised to seek cuts to government spending in the wake of alarming 
Congressional Budget Office projections that federal deficits are starting to rise again. In 2016, the federal budget deficit will increase, in relation to the size of the economy, for the first time since 2009, according to the CBO’s estimates. If current laws generally remained unchanged, the deficit would grow over the next 10 years, and by 2026 it would be considerably larger than its average over the past 50 years.

An argument for increasing OCO is that it's not counted towards the Budget Control Act caps, but the higher spending still drains funds from the U.S. Treasury and will fuel the deficit in the absence of offsetting revenues. 

Inside the Pentagon, meanwhile, Carter’s budget proposal has sparked some discontent. His thinking about how to increase military capability — by having a smaller but more capable force — does not sit well with the chiefs of the military services, Bell said. 

In the Navy, for instance, there is widespread opposition to Carter’s move to trim the number of littoral combat ships. The attitude among military chiefs is that “Ash Carter is only going to be here for one year,” Bell said. The environment could change when a new secretary comes in. “I think this is a budget that privately is being opposed by the chiefs. And the chiefs have a fair amount of influence.”

Parochial issues aside, Obama’s final defense plan punts to the next president broader fiscal dilemmas that have dogged the Pentagon for years such as containing rising personnel, overhead and weapons procurement costs in order to improve the military’s tooth-to-tail ratio. The department continues to struggle to strike a balance between maintaining a high-quality, all-volunteer force and “keeping faith” with today’s service members while stabilizing long-term costs. And the Defense Department is still saddled with aging equipment after a so-called “procurement holiday” that started with the post-Cold War drawdown.

Obama’s successor will inherit a five-year defense funding plan that, analysts estimate, is about $100 billion short of what the Pentagon predicts it will need to meet projected demands. 

Carter has pressed the narrative that this budget bolsters the military as it shifts focus to nation-state competition from a resurgent Russia and a rising China, regional threats from North Korea and Iran, and the continuing need to counter terrorism. But the budget also is an acknowledgement that the Pentagon has been slow to modernize and must therefore continue to fund programs that it had planned to retire in the near future, such the Air Force’s A-10 close-air support aircraft, the Navy F/A-18 fighter and Tomahawk cruise missile. 

In the case of the A-10, the Air Force is shifting funding from F-35 acquisitions, 4th generation fighter modernization and sustainment programs to keep the Warthog in service until 2022.

Despite Carter’s judgment of how the Pentagon should reshape for the future, the military remains conflicted about how to make the transition while it is still fighting a war in Afghanistan and increasing its presence in the Middle East and Africa. This has sparked an internal “capability versus capacity” debate and a defense-wide competition for resources among the military services and agencies. 

Obama officials have said the basic elements of the nation's defense strategy remain valid, and it is up to the Pentagon to become nimble enough to respond to unexpected crises. The global environment has been “as confounding as the American political scene,” noted a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

The administration is in a tight spot with this budget, said defense analyst Katherine Blakeley, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The administration will have to “walk a narrow rhetorical tightrope in justifying this budget, rather than the higher spending envisioned in the 2016 request,” she said. Although the fiscal year 2017 budget will be right at the level of the BCA caps, the Pentagon’s 2018-2021 budget plan will exceed the caps by a cumulative $104.5 billion. 

The administration is adjusting “economic assumptions” — inflation associated with personnel, healthcare costs and a drop in the price of fuel — to offset part of the gap between its 2016 and 2017 requests. 

Further criticism of the Obama’s funding proposal comes from watchdog groups that have challenged the Pentagon to be more accountable for its spending. 

“As Congress reviews the budget for the Pentagon and related programs for fiscal year 2017, it should take action to prevent the rampant waste that has characterized the department’s operations in recent years,” said William D. Hartung, defense analyst at the Center for International Policy.

In a new report, CIP identifies $33 billion in Pentagon programs that it considers questionable and warrant deeper scrutiny. “Both budget hawks and defense hawks should be able to agree that whatever amount of money the Pentagon ultimately gets, it should be spent and managed effectively,” the report said. “The department is failing spectacularly at this task. … The Department of Defense has not undergone a full audit in almost two decades, despite being legally mandated to do so. Without audits and regular accountability, there is no way of knowing where all of the money being appropriated to the Pentagon actually goes.”
Carter at China Lake: DoD Spending Big Money on Munitions
By Sandra I. Erwin





Defense Secretary Ashton Carter traveled to the naval weapons base at China Lake, California, and made a renewed pitch for his funding proposal in preparation for next week’s showdown with lawmakers over budget priorities.

Carter made naval firepower a centerpiece of the $582.7 billion fiscal year 2017 budget request so it is no accident that he chose to visit the Naval Air Station that was the cradle of some of the nation’s most storied weapons, including the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the Joint Stand-Off Weapon and the Joint Direct Attack Munition.

The emphasis on high-end munitions is part of Carter’s larger plan to modernize the Pentagon’s aging inventory, and he is insistent that this year’s budget is moving the military in that direction.

“It is important that you have ships and aircraft that have the very best weapons,” Carter told reporters Feb. 2 during a tour of China Lake. The goal is to “multiply the capability of our individual ships and aircraft and actually submarines … so that we have not only the best platforms, but they have the highest-end capability.”

The budget request includes $8.1 billion for undersea and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Over the next five years, the Pentagon plans to spend $40 billion on advanced payloads and munitions; unmanned underwater vehicles; advanced maritime patrol aircraft; and nine Virginia-class attack submarines, some of which will be equipped with the Virginia Payload Module, which increases the platform’s strike capacity from 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles to 40.

Tomahawks are tested at China Lake, Carter said. “So this place has been part of that program from the very beginning.”

Carter said there is $2 billion in the five-year budget to acquire 4,000 Tomahawks. “We need to make sure we fill the tubes on our submarines and our surface ships with the very best and the newest. And lots of Tomahawks.”

The newest versions will be more adaptable to different combat scenarios, he said. “We want to diversify the kinds of targets that they can hit, from land attack, which is probably how you first met the Tomahawk many years ago, to an anti-ship version so that we continue to diversify our suite of anti-ship missiles,” said Carter. “Again, this is in the spirit of making everything we have lethal.”

The Navy also is testing a long-range anti-ship missile at China Lake called LRASM. The budget includes $927 million over five years for this missile. And there is $418 million for extended range anti-radiation homing missiles.

“The point is that these are large investments in the strategic future at the high end,” he said. “And that’s going to be important as we focus once again on the full spectrum of threats.”

When he returns to Washington next week to present the budget to Congress, Carter will face a barrage of incoming fire from Republican lawmakers who already have blasted the funding proposal as inadequate for the military to take on increasingly sophisticated adversaries.

A potential showdown with the Obama administration will be over the use of “overseas contingency operations” funds — created to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — to pay for activities and programs that have little to do with those wars. The administration has criticized the use of contingency war budgets as a gimmick that allows the Pentagon to break legally mandated spending caps and lets Congress off the hook for not raising those caps.

The 2017 request includes $59 billion for OCO. In 2016, nearly $30 billion of the $58.8 billion OCO funding paid for base budget costs. Defense committee leaders will argue that the $59 billion agreed in the October 2015 budget deal is a floor, not a ceiling.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Carter stood by the administration’s position that the $59 billion is a firm number that Congress agreed to. “That number was set, as was our budget, in the bipartisan budget agreement,” he said. “It’s in the nature of budgeting in general that you have to make hard choices and you have to make hard tradeoffs.” But Carter would not completely rule out the possibility that a higher OCO amount might be needed. He noted that OCO is “by definition a variable fund that depends upon what you do in the course of a year. And that has been so for a number of years when there’s been an OCO budget.” In the past, the Department of Defense has “ended up spending more than it originally asked for,” he said. “Sometimes it has ended up spending less. … That’s in the nature of not knowing exactly.” Congress, he added, “has always recognized reality. … When we need less than we said, they take the money away. And I don’t have a problem with that. But I would think that if we needed more they’d respect that as well.”


PHOTO: Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with troops at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif, Feb. 2. 2016 (DOD)
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