Finally, a 2010 DOD budget; now Congress can get to work
At long last, we have a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget request for federal fiscal year 2010. It's only three months -- a quarter of a year -- later than usual, which doesn't give lawmakers on Capitol Hill as much time as usual to go through details of the 2010 DOD budget request.
Facing a tight schedule before federal fiscal year 2010 starts on 1 Oct., Congress confronts a 2010 defense budget proposal from the Obama Administration of $663.8 billion -- $533.8 billion in discretionary spending for things like ship radar , aircraft avionics , tanks and vetronics , military communications systems, electronics upgrades, personnel, military construction, and family housing -- and $130 billion to pay for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lawmakers now have only 4 1/2 months -- not the usual 7 1/2 months -- to consider the DOD's half-trillion budget request for next year. Still, why fret? Maybe the late budget release doesn't make that much difference. Even if Congress got the request 4 1/2 YEARS in advance, I believe this august body would still miss its deadlines.
I've been observing the federal government and its budgeting machinations now for more than a quarter-century, and it never fails to amuse when Congress can't pass its budget, authorization, and appropriations bills before the federal fiscal year ends on 30 Sept. The only question is how long Congress must fund government operations with continuing resolutions before they can get the money bills approved.
It is the discretionary spending portion of the DOD budget that interests us most, as it contains the accounts for military procurement, research and development, as well as operations, maintenance, and construction.
Those watching the U.S. defense industry know that the big weapons programs come out of this budget segment -- and believe it or not, there's an increase. President Obama is asking Congress for $533.8 billion in discretionary military spending in 2010. That's $3.6 more than the $15.4 billion the Pentagon asked for the current fiscal year, and slightly more than the $513.3 billion that Congress approved for 2009. The Obama Administration says this represents 2.1 percent real growth after adjusting for inflation.
The Pentagon's budget request came on 7 May -- too late for a detailed analysis in this issue, but next month we'll have chapter and verse on procurement and research in communications, electronics, telecommunications, and intelligence (CET&I) technologies proposed funding for 2010. For this year, incidentally, DOD asked for $29.16 billion in CET&I spending, which was 8.5 percent of the total DOD budget request.
We can tell you that this DOD budget would increase intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) spending by nearly $2 billion, including money for 50 Predator-class unmanned aerial vehicles; an increase in manned ISR capabilities; and research and development on several ISR enhancements and experimental systems.
The 2010 DOD budget also would increase spending by $500 million to pay for maintenance, and pilots for the military helicopter fleet. The DOD also would increase the number of special operations personnel by more than 2,400, and purchase increased numbers of Special Forces aircraft.
Navy leaders have reason to smile, as DOD would increase the buy of Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) from two to three in 2010, with an eventual goal of buying 55 of these ships. In addition, the DOD request would delay development of the Navy's next-generation cruiser, the CG-X, and cap the growth of Army Brigade Combat Teams at 45, rather than the previously planned 48.
The budget also includes $6.8 billion to buy 30 Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft -- an increase of $3.1 billion and 14 aircraft from this year's request -- with a goal of buying 2,443 of these aircraft. The Pentagon also wants to buy 31 F/A-18 and E/A-18G aircraft, and retire about 250 old jet fighters.
The bad news on the 2010 DOD budget for aircraft would be the end of production of the F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter, as well as of the C-17 airlifter.
The Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, meanwhile, will be significantly restructured, by changing FCS from its emphasis on spinouts of mature technologies, to a focus on improving infantry brigade combat teams with FCS technologies and replacing the most vulnerable platforms in the heavy brigade combat teams.
In addition, the 2010 budget would continue developing three FCS unmanned ground vehicles, two unmanned aerial vehicles, non-line-of-sight launch system, unattended ground sensors, and an information network.
Follow me on Twitter