to Congress their annual wish lists of
items that did not make the budget
cut. Not surprisingly, the 18 additional fighters the committee granted
in their bill came directly from the
Navy and Marine Corps’ lists.
The so-called unfunded requirements lists essentially give lawmakers the justification to add
favored programs. The Boeing-built Super Hornet, for instance,
has long been a congressional
favorite, with lawmakers adding
money each year to keep the
plane’s production lines humming.
In making his case for the addi-
tional aircraft, Chief of Naval
Operations ADM Jonathan W.
Greenert stressed in a letter to
Congress that the service’s current
strike fighter shortfall is “barely
manageable.” The additional Super
Hornets, which could later be
reconfigured into EA-18G Growler
electronic attack aircraft, would
“reduce near-term strike fighter
inventory gaps and risks.”
Meanwhile, Marine Corps Com-
mandant Gen Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
stressed that six more F-35Bs next
year “would further enhance our
combat readiness and effectiveness
should additional funds above
those already requested in the
Fiscal Year 2016 President’s Budget
be made available.”
Lawmakers seized on those
arguments in explaining the deci-
sion to add the jets.
The military’s “current ground-
force scenarios assume that they
will always have air dominance,”
House Armed Services tactical air
and land forces Chairman Michael
Turner, R-Ohio, said in an April 23
statement explaining his subcom-
mittee’s decisions. “As we know,
based on current events — both
classified and unclassified — this
may not be the case in the not-so-
distance future if we don’t continue
to modernize existing tactical air-
craft and field additional fifth-
The House bill also orders an
independent review of the Pratt &
Whitney F135 engine, which pow-
ers the F- 35. The study would
review the engines’ reliability and
cost history, as well as examine the
engine fire last summer that
grounded the fleet.
An aide for the committee,
which had long advocated for buying two competing engines for the
massive fighter program despite
heavy Pentagon resistance, stressed
that the study is not a backdoor
effort to reopen debate on the alternate engine program. Rather, it is
intended as a check on the F135.
Dunford Popular Choice
To Chair Joint Chiefs
President Barack Obama’s decision
to tap Dunford as the next Joint
Chiefs of Staff chairman drew
praise even from the administration’s toughest critics, a strong suggestion that the Marine Corps four-star could have a smooth Senate
Senate Armed Services Chairman
John McCain said his panel would
give Dunford’s nomination prompt
consideration, a courtesy similar to
the Arizona Republican’s treatment
of Carter’s confirmation earlier this
year as secretary of defense.
McCain told reporters that he
considers Dunford, who has experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan,
an “outstanding” choice and doesn’t
foresee any problems pushing his
nomination through the Senate.
“He has my full and complete
support,” McCain said.
Carter, Dempsey Decry
Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman Army GEN Martin E.
Dempsey pleaded with the Senate
Appropriations defense subcommittee May 6 to end the “erosion”
of defense capabilities caused by
the Budget Control Act (BCA) and
Carter said the funding reduc-
tion from the 2011 BCA threatens
military readiness, the size of the
military forces, their capabilities
“and, ultimately, the lives of our
men and women in uniform.”
Dempsey said the president’s
budget request “is the minimum
required” to support the services’
capabilities, capacity and readiness.
“We are at the bottom edge,”
Dempsey said. Less funding “will
put us in a position where we will
have to change the national securi-
Carter said the recently approved
joint congressional budget resolu-
tion plan to hold the base defense
budget to the BCA caps, but to
increase the Overseas Contingency
Operations (OCO) account to reach
Obama’s total proposed funding,
“clearly recognizes that the budget
levels we requested are needed.”
But, he added, that is “a road to
nowhere,” because Obama has
threatened to veto funding bills that
increase defense but continue to cut
the rest of government.
If Congress and the administration cannot come together on a
better plan, it would put the
Defense Department “in the all-too-familiar” position of having to
make belated adjustments “to an
insufficient budget,” he said.
Carter added the obvious, but
apparently ignored reality, that “the
one-year OCO approach does
nothing to reduce the deficit,” even
though the spending does not
count against the BCA caps.
But more importantly, he continued, adding OCO funds “doesn’t
provide a stable approach” and adds
to the uncertainty over the future.
He used that same argument
when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine,
complained that the Navy’s shipbuilding plan would not buy the
ships the Navy needs to maintain
forward presence and meet the
combat commanders’ request for
ballistic missile defense.