Leaner defense budget aims for realistic reform

Gates seeks broad portfolio of military capabilities to address wide range of threats

In a $708 billion defense budget request for fiscal 2011 that closely adheres to the recently completed 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department outlined strategies for military funding based on reform coupled with "a bracing dose of realism," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Feb. 1 in a press briefing.

The QDR, which examined DOD strategies and priorities, served as a foundation for the 2011 defense budget proposal. The QDR was released formally on Feb. 1 together with the budget request.


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Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and force modernization emerged as areas of focus within the review, which actively seeks to move DOD away from conventional, “two-war” strategy toward a more flexible construct taking on the challenges of today’s asymmetrical warfare.

“We have learned through painful experience that the wars we fight are seldom the wars we planned. As a result, the United States needs a broad portfolio of military capabilities with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of conflict,” Gates said.

“Rebalancing” was a key aspect of the QDR as it sought to weigh risks against limited resources, and the current wars against future conflicts and requirements. As a result, the President Barack Obama requested in the budget proposal some $112.9 billion for procurement and $76.1 billion for research, development, test and evaluation, both aimed to improve capabilities for irregular warfare.

A large segment of procurement funding is directed toward ISR capabilities, including substantial investment in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs. Some $2.2 billion would go to increase the Predator UAV combat air patrols from the current 37 to 65 by fiscal 2013.

The Army’s budget request included a provision for 26 MQ-1 Sky Warrior Extended Range Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial System ($459 million), and the Air Force has requested 36 MQ-9A Reaper UAVs (which cost about $11.4 million each, according to Air Force officials) for fiscal 2011.

“We will max production of the Reaper – the most advanced version of the Predator. It’s at 24 in 2010; it will go to 36 in 2011, and then up to 48,” said DOD comptroller Robert Hale.

Hale, speaking at the DOD press briefing Feb. 1, said that the defense budget needs to be approved by Memorial Day in order to keep the forces operational.

An additional $7 billion in DOD overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding – war spending supplemental to the base defense budget – would go to increased military intelligence, including at least $2.4 billion directly for ISR support such as five Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance system aircraft, as well as “efforts to address vulnerability of unencrypted airborne data links,” the budget proposal said.

“As we have seen firsthand through eights years of war, [ISR] assets are absolutely critical enablers for the warfighter,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cyber warfare also proved to be a priority in the QDR, and while the defense proposal did outline some provisions for the U.S. Cyber Command, specific funding figures were largely omitted from the proposal outline. Hale said immediate Cyber Command funding hinges on current resources – including the reallocation of people and money – and identified $104 million in funding to be added. “We’re looking wherever we can,” Hale said.

The Air Force has set aside $100 million in fiscal 2011 for continuing operations of its cyber command component, which officially becomes operational this year, said Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers, deputy assistant secretary for budget, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.

Army and Navy officials at the Pentagon press briefing did not comment on specific funding for their respective subcomponent cyber command programs.

The Army outlined a number of provisions for modernizing its force, including $2.5 billion for restructuring its Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Modernization, part of its plan for “modular reorganization” for multifunctional support brigades backing a more versatile Army.

According to the Army’s budget request, its BCT modernization program is based on four elements: incrementally fielding new technologies, modernizing the network for upgraded technology, developing and fielding of a new ground combat vehicle and integrating mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles into ground operations. BCT program funding is part of the Army’s $549 billion request for research, development, testing and evaluation.

As part of the Army’s move to transform its battlefield network, it will direct $630 million to equip its primary joint communications efforts, the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical and the Joint Tactical Radio System, the latter of which will support the purchase of 1,943 handheld, manpack and small form fit radios. An additional $191 million will fund further WIN-T development.

The Army is diverting $1.9 billion for its science and technology development program, which “leverages the work of other services, defense agencies, private industry and the international community,” according to the Army’s budget overview.

Also of note in the DOD fiscal 2011 budget request:

  • $300 million to support modernization of DOD’s Electronic Health Record and medical IT infrastructure, as well as partnership with the Veterans Administration and the private sector to build a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Health Record
  • Unspecified funds for the termination of the “pay-for-performance” National Security Personnel System by the end of the year (a cost estimated at $260 million by comptroller Hale)
  • $1.3 billion in FY11 OCO funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program for ad-hoc tactical funding
  • The discontinuation of the following programs: CG(X) next-generation Navy cruiser; EP(X) Navy intelligence aircraft; Air Force's third-generation infrared surveillance satellite; net-enabled command capability; and the defense integrated military human resources system.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 edmond hennessy united states

Recognize that we are facing new & different threats and that the military timetable has changed - and, that I am probably dating myself - however, remember a time when we said that the Defense Budget was "less than the allocation to support the Korean War." This was a defining statement to reinforce what we had to work with, no matter what threats materialized. One gets the impression that a $708 billion request is almost apologetic. Hmmm. Primarily, focus on the electronics segment of the budget (cross-military lines & cross-platform). Believe that many of the decisions to allocate critical funds to C4ISR and other initiatives is the right thing, however with the taxpayer hat on - how will all this stuff be paid for (on a sustainable basis) and what does it mean to the already struggling taxpayer?

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