IT-laden weapons systems face cuts in '06
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Jan 21, 2005
The Pentagon's plan to slash nearly $30 billion from its budgets over the next six years will affect several major projects that rely heavily on IT to transform the way the military does its job.
Next fiscal year alone, the Bush administration is looking to slash $5.9 billion from the Defense Department budget, according to an internal program budget decision document being widely circulated within the department. The cuts affect aircraft, missile defense and ship programs in the Air Force, Missile Defense Agency and Navy.
Over the same time period, the Army is expected to see its budget grow by $25 billion as the Pentagon favors transforming how the service uses ground troops. The Army is slated to receive $5 billion a year from fiscal 2007 to 2011 to reorganize into smaller units. The Marine Corps also stands to receive more funding for similar use.
'I agree that the Army and Marine Corps need more funds overall because they're working so hard in Iraq,' said Michael E. O'Hanlon, senior fellow of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. 'I strongly support more people, more ground forces, for the Army.'
Added Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at FSI of McLean, Va.: 'The Army has been criticized as being slower than the other military departments in embracing the vision and spirit of transformation. The net effect of this will inject a stream of funding into the Army budget for accelerating the development of new organizational structures and the weapons and technology to implement them.'
Since the administration began waging its war on terror, the Defense Department has been largely immune to the budgetary cuts that have hit civilian agencies. For example, the Pentagon's budget grew from $300 billion in 2000 to more than $400 billion this year.
But in the face of a record $450 billion federal deficit, the White House is reining in budget growth and forcing Defense agencies to tighten their belts.
On Dec. 23, deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz approved the spending adjustments for 2006 to 2011 outlined in Program Budget Decision No. 753. It's one of the final steps before the Office of Management and Budget incorporates the figures into the president's budget proposal for Congress, which the White House usually sends to lawmakers in early February.
Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood declined comment on the document be- cause it's not final. DOD has scheduled a briefing on its fiscal 2006 budget for early next month, following release of the president's proposal.
O'Hanlon called the proposed cuts 'a token effort' to reduce several large-item weapons programs, such as the Navy's DD(X) destroyers and LPD-17 landing craft and the Air Force's FA-22 program to develop a stealthy, high-tech fighter plane. The Air Force's Joint Strike Fighter program would not be affected by the cuts.
The internal budget documents direct Army leaders to submit to Wolfowitz a plan 'that rationalizes and integrates its Future Combat System and Modularity programs.'
O'Hanlon said the FCS program should be delayed by five years and research funding cut in half, since the Army is already fielding a new capability: the Stryker Brigade high-tech battle vehicles.
Army officials have announced they plan to begin merging elements of FCS' network technology into existing systems as early as 2008. Fielding of the 18 FCS systems is supposed to begin in 2014.
'I think the argument for the FCS is fairly weak in the short term,' O'Hanlon said. 'We already have the Stryker Brigade concept, and I think we should spend more time getting that right.'
Furthermore, he said, technologies needed to make FCS work are not advancing as fast as they need to.
'I think if you build it in the near future, you're not going to get a very good weapon,' he said. 'I think we're going need to rely on these big heavy Abrams and Bradleys for a long time, and we shouldn't rush to replace them.'
FCS will connect weapons and transport systems via the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program. The Army's plans for WIN-T call for a high-speed, high-capacity infrastructure for wired and wireless voice, data, video and imagery communications.