defense subcommittee on March 1,
adding that there simply are not
enough ready planes in the fleet for
the service’s pilots to log their flying hours. “People join the aviation
community to fly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Navy Secretary Ray
Mabus has been stressing the importance of paying off the DDG 51, telling Senate appropriators on March 2
that it tops his list of priorities.
In December, Congress added $1
billion to the 2016 spending bill to
pay for most of that destroyer, with
plans to fund the rest of the ship next
year. But the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act passed as the Pentagon
was winding down its own internal
budget negotiations and the Navy
did not have time to slip the money
into its spending request.
“We think this is one of the very
top priorities, the CNO [chief of
naval operations] and I do,” Mabus
said at a hearing defending his
budget request. “We look forward
to working with you to figure out
how to get this money so that we
can get this ship under contract.
It’s a ’ 16 ship, not a future ship.”
The ship, which likely would be
built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works, has
important boosters in that state’s
delegation, particularly Republican
Sen. Susan Collins, a senior appro-
priator, and independent Sen. Angus
King, a vocal Armed Services Com-
Both senators implored the Navy
to include the destroyer on its
unfunded priorities list (UPL). The
fiscal 2017 proposal requests $3.5
billion for two other destroyers that
had been previously planned.
“We are concerned that failure to
include funding of this ship as a critical unmet requirement on the UPL
could detrimentally affect the delivery of more DDG 51s to the fleet at a
time of great geopolitical instability
and increasing threats,” the Maine
senators wrote in the Feb. 23 letter to
CNO Adm. John M. Richardson.
“Our destroyers are the workhorses
of the Navy and are necessary to
ensure that the Navy remains ready
to immediately respond when called
upon to do so.”
Collins and King have argued that
the Navy needs the ship added last
year by Congress, which is in addi-
tion to a batch of 10 destroyers the
service planned to buy between fiscal
2013 and 2017, to meet operational
requirements around the world.
While many of the wish-list
items have strong support on
Capitol Hill, lawmakers could run
into issues actually securing funding for many of the programs.
During the historic growth in
defense spending in the decade following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, the service chiefs generally
got whatever they asked for. But
the Pentagon’s base budget is
capped for next year, leaving lawmakers with little room to add big-ticket items to the request.
Nonetheless, appropriators have
become skilled at making hundreds
of little cuts — essentially spreading
small pricks of pain throughout the
budget — to make room for priorities like the Super Hornets. They
can also claim unused dollars from
prior years and make other adjustments to squeeze in at least some of
the wish-list items.
The Pentagon also has one significant advantage no other agency
does: the overseas contingency
operations (OCO) budget, which
is deemed emergency spending
and thus not capped by law.
The Defense Department has
requested $59 billion for war
accounts next year. But hawkish
lawmakers in the House already
are maneuvering to add OCO
money to next year’s budget, essentially giving them increased wiggle
room to fund pet programs.
But the White House last year
balked at efforts to inflate the war
accounts, vetoing the defense
authorization bill over that tactic.
If lawmakers make the same move
this year, President Barack Obama
could once again veto the massive
legislation — this time, in the wan-
ing days of his administration and
the current Congress.
The Coast Guard, for its wish list,
included $138 million for follow-on
acquisition funding for the ninth
National Security Cutter. This would
include post-delivery activities; testing, evaluation and support activities;
major acquisition systems infrastructure; and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Other items in the $272 million request included recapitalization
and contraction projects to station,
sector and waterfront facilities.
More Ships, Aircraft
Needed for Interdiction
The combatant commander in
charge of interdicting the flow of
illegal drugs and other contraband
from Central and South America
and the Caribbean area said he does
not have the resources to interdict
even half of the illicit trade.
“I do not have the ships, I do not
have the aircraft, to be able to execute the detection and monitoring
to the level that has been established
for us to achieve,” Adm. Kurt W.
Tidd, commander, U.S. Southern
Command (SOUTHCOM), said
March 10 before the Senate Armed
Services Committee in Washington.
“On a given day, on average, we
tend to have between five and six
surface ships, largely U.S. Coast
Guard cutters and one to two Navy
platforms,” Tidd said. “The established requirement in order to
interdict at the established target
level of 40 percent is up to 21 surface platforms. It’s a question of resources and allocation of resources
and priorities all across the threats
the country faces.”
The requirement for platforms
was determined by a “fairly lengthy
study,” he said.