‘Doomsday memo’ ramps up DoD budget fight

The House Armed Services Committee released a report Sept. 26 that says if the defense budget is cut any further, we'll return to the military of "the post-Vietnam Carter era of the late 1970s" and have another Desert One debacle.

The House Armed Services Committee released a report Sept. 26 that says if the defense budget is cut any further, we’ll return to the military of “the post-Vietnam Carter era of the late 1970s” and have another Desert One debacle.

The HASC is drawing a sharp line in the sand with its so-called “Doomsday Memo,” seemingly saying anything beyond the $465 billion in cuts over 10 years would “transform a Superpower into a Regional Power.”

The report states that contemplated cuts would eliminate 60 ships, two carrier battle groups and over 200,000 troops through 2021. It’s a worst case scenario that puts several large programs at risk:


  • Ground Combat Vehicle
  • Apache and Kiowa
  • Tactical Wheeled Vehicles consumed in Iraq and Afghanistan


  • Carrier variant (F-35C) of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), in favor of more affordable but less
  • capable F-18 E/F
  • Shipbuilding (see above)
  • Construction of aircraft carriers extended, ultimately reducing number of carriers
    Procurement of OHIO class replacement extended and quantity reduced.
    Resultant cost increases consume most of shipbuilding budget

Air Force

  • Reduction to the buy of the conventional take-off and landing variant (F-35A) of JSF.
  • Next Generation Bomber
  • Aerial Refueling Tanker

Marine Corps

  • Likely elimination of the STOVL variant of the JSF (F-35B).
  • Marine Personnel Carrier
  • Limit production of V-22
  • Indefinite postponement of replacement for Amphibious Assault Vehicle
  • Reduction of amphibious ships

Interestingly — and surprisingly for a ‘progressive’ editorial board — today’s New York Times features an editorial that says Congress should take a close look at cutting benefits, arguing the cushy retirement incentives, cheapo healthcare premiums and bonuses are a legacy of tough recruiting times and are unaffordable in the modern economic era when a “retiring” 38 year-old has another 30+ years of work ahead of him.

One has to wonder if the current economic climate the the budget cutting microscope could serve as a tipping point to truly modernize the Pentagon long-term. Rather than pro-forma cuts to the highest cost technology and personnel programs, if cooler heads prevail, the Pentagon and its congressional backers could use this as a chance to really set the department up for success. Personnel programs and benefits that look more like the private sector, career paths that track more with skills and a warfighter’s resume than “promotion board” predilections. Ships, planes and vehicles that will last as long and be technically relevant for decades — the squeeze could be used to really make a force for the future.

We’ve been here before and we know that fundamental change just isn’t possible. And from this HASC position paper and report, it looks as if budget cutters are going to have to pull that money out of the committee’s cold dead fingers. Money quote from Grand Poo-Ba of Budget Critics Winslow Wheeler:

Just as clearly, [the HASC] need to be replaced, including the staff drones who wrote this party-line tripe.  (However, “party-line” is a misnomer; the Democrats (on the HASC) have basically bought on to this as well. The only amendment they have sought is to want higher revenues to protect current defense spending levels.)


About the Author

Christian Lowe
Before signing on to Military.com, Christian was a senior writer for The Politico covering defense and national security issues after spending five years with the Military Times newspapers in Springfield Va. Always running to the sound of the guns, he has covered military operations worldwide, embedding with Army and Marine units in both Iraq and Afghanistan, observing detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, covering humanitarian missions in Lebanon and New Orleans, participating in training exercises at military bases from California to Florida and reporting on military policy and budgets in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.