Pentagon's 2012 budget: procurement and UAVs

Editor in Chief

The U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies involved in aerospace pursuits have released their budget requests for fiscal 2012. As you might expect, the federal budget proposals have good news and bad news for our industry; before I get to that, I should point out that most of these numbers are not as bad as they could have been.

There's pressure from all sides to cut the federal budget to keep dangerously ballooning deficits in check, and despite national security concerns, Pentagon spending is mentioned more often than I can ever remember as a fat target for deep cuts.

Nevertheless, The Pentagon is asking Congress for $670.9 billion in fiscal 2012, a 37.3 percent reduction from the 2011 request. A closer look reveals the proposed $670.9 billion 2012 DOD budget contains $553.1 billion for normal Pentagon operations, a 4.2 percent increase from 2011, and $117.8 billion for military operations, a 41.5 percent decrease from 2011.

The 2012 DOD budget request has $113.01 billion for procurement-up from the 2011 request of $104.79 billion; $75.33 billion for research and development, a drop from the 2011 request of $80.39 billion; and $204.42 billion for operations and maintenance, up sharply from the 2011 request of $184.49 billion. Federal fiscal year 2012 begins on 1 Oct. 2011.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is asking for $1.24 billion for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGEN)-$372 million higher than 2011 enacted levels, or more than a 40-percent increase. The FAA also proposes nearly doubling funding for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology, from $200 million in 2011 to $285 million.

The total FAA 2012 budget request is $18.657 billion, an increase of $2.665 billion. This proposal includes $3.1 billion for the Grants-in-Aid to Airports and $250 million for aviation facilities and equipment.

NASA is asking for $18.724 million next year, a cut from 2011. The space agency's budget is projected to remain flat for the next five years. NASA proposes spending $850 million each year through 2016 for commercial spaceflight. The 2012 NASA budget asks for $1 billion for architecture planning of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) program and $1.8 billion for Space Launch Systems (SLS). The MPCV will transport humans to distant locations in the solar system; the SLS program will develop a heavy lift vehicle that will launch the MPCV, other modules, and cargo. NASA is proposing to freeze its budget at $18.724 billion-the 2010 funding level-for the next five years.

The Pentagon is trying to pay for DOD procurement and research, while cutting the DOD's overall budget by winding down overseas military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Congress enacts the request to cut spending for R&D, it will be the second straight year the R&D budget takes a hit. The Pentagon's R&D spending had been hovering in the $80-billion range for several years until the first cuts hit in 2011.

DOD officials may regret neglecting the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) budget. After nearly a decade of spending for active military operations in South Asia, systems developers are eager for new systems and technologies.

Of equal concern are the proposed cuts of more than 10 percent for procurement and research in military communications, electronics, telecommunications, and intelligence (CET&I) technologies. The DOD proposes spending $15.81 billion in fiscal year 2012 for CET&I procurement and research, down from current-year enacted levels of $17.65 billion. The budget request consists of $10.36 billion in CET&I procurement, down 10.62 percent from current-year levels of $11.59 billion, and $5.45 billion in CET&I R&D, down 10.07 percent from current-year levels of $6.06 billion.

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