The Pentagon’s budget request
ignored existing caps on defense
spending, blowing past those limits by $34 billion. With the
prospects dim on reaching a deal to
provide relief from those spending
limits, lawmakers are attempting to
shift much of that overage into the
uncapped war accounts.
However, it is unclear whether
that tactic — which some lawmakers consider little more than a
budgetary gimmick — will work.
Fiscal conservatives in the Senate
could thwart those efforts, essentially killing the move to use the
Overseas Contingencies Operations
(OCO) budget to get the Pentagon
more cash. But even if defense
hawks convince the chamber to rely
more heavily on OCO, it would
bring the Pentagon only $1 billion
above its requested levels.
The Navy and Marine Corps,
which wisely centered their wish lists
on a handful of congressionally popular programs, still could get at least
some of the items on their unfunded
lists, potentially with little or no
effect on other military programs.
Lawmakers always have budgetary tricks at their disposal to make
room in the annual defense appropriations bill for favored programs.
Those tricks include tapping unused prior-year funding, making
hundreds of small, surgical cuts to
programs to free up additional cash
and shifting money from the base
budget to the war accounts.
The Super Hornets, in particular, have been a congressional
favorite for years, with lawmakers
loath to shut down Boeing Co.’s
production line. Last year, appropriators agreed to add $1.5 billion
to the fiscal 2015 defense spending
bill to buy 15 Growlers that were
not requested, thanks largely to
public assurances from Navy leaders that the aircraft were a priority.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s F-
35 program continues to have a
strong base of support on Capitol
Hill. In that same spending bill,
appropriators added $224 million to
buy two additional F-35s for the Air
Force and another $255 million for
two more of the stealth fighters for
the Navy, bringing the number of F-
35s to be procured this year to 38.
If there’s a will — even in the
current constrained budget environment — Congress will find
some way to pay for it. And the
wish lists often give lawmakers the
justification they need to add these
programs to the bills.
In total, the wish lists sent to
Capitol Hill by the military services,
National Guard Bureau and U.S.
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)
totaled more than $20 billion, with
the Army’s $7.6 billion in unfunded
requirements the largest this year.
Other items on the Navy’s list
include $187 million for two C-
40A cargo aircraft, $170 million for
170 jamming protection upgrade
kits for the Super Hornets and
Growlers and $65 million for one
MQ-4C Triton high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Marine Corps’ list included
$180 million for two KC-130J tanker
and transport aircraft, $145.5 million
for Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided missiles, $77.5 million for Javelin missiles, $75 million
for technology that counters improvised explosive devices and $24.5
million for one H- 1 helicopter.
Meanwhile, SOUTHCOM, the
only one of the combatant commands to submit an unfunded list,
wants $96.5 million to replace
temporary facilities at the Guan-tanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center and maintain other facilities
there, despite the Obama administration’s continued desire to shutter the controversial prison.
Navy, Marine Officials
Aim to Rebuild, Reconnect
The Navy and Marine Corps are fo-
cusing their efforts, and billions of
dollars, on regaining the integrated
expeditionary capabilities eroded by
14 years of primarily ground com-
bat and improving their amphibious
forces’ abilities to conduct the
sharply different operations re-
quired by the “new normal” in the
global security environment.
The concerted effort, described
in April 8 briefings from four officers involved in building, improving and operating amphibious
forces, includes $1.65 billion in
investments in better communications, ship defensive and offensive
capabilities, and the ability to integrate the greater capabilities of new
aircraft, such as the F-35B.
But it also must include breaking down the cultural and operational barriers between the two sea
services that have emerged during
the Marines’ extended involvement
in Iraq and Afghanistan, the officers said.
“We need to teach Marines how
the Navy fights at sea, how they can
help. And we need to teach the
Navy how Marines fight ashore and
how we can help,” said RADM Peter
Fanta, director of Surface Warfare.
A major part of the material programs managed by Fanta and
MajGen Robert Walsh, director of
Expeditionary Warfare, focus on
enabling the amphibious ships to
conduct the disaggregated and
split operations that have become
the “coin of the realm” for Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), said
RDML Cynthia Thebaud, commander of Expeditionary Strike
Group (ESG) Two.
Thebaud and Fanta, who had
commanded an ESG, said the three
ships in an ARG frequently are required to separate to respond to
emerging crises. If the ships are operating separately, but within the same
combatant commander’s area of
responsibility (AOR), it is called
“split ops,” and if one or more of the
ships transitions into a different
AOR, it is called “disaggregated ops.”