The Pentagon’s program panacea: Delays

The Pentagon’s program panacea: Delays

This year’s defense budget submission is like a Major League knuckleballer, depending on one key pitch to get through the game. If it works, he’s an ace, but if things don’t go his way, he risks getting blown out of the water.

The pitch is the delay — the bet that officials can push major programs back a year, two years, or more and come out a winner. The program stays alive, DoD gets to bank “savings,” for the purposes of Monday’s budget submission, and the long-term outlook keeps many of its important fixtures. For example, the Navy can continue to count on its Ohio-replacement ballistic missile submarine, which won’t get advance procurement funding until fiscal 2017 — pushed back from 2015 — and won’t be ordered until 2019.

That last point is key: Every year the Pentagon’s budget includes a five-year defense plan, ostensibly to give lawmakers and the defense industry a roadmap for what to expect beyond the current budget cycle. The farther down the FYDP a program winds up, the less certain it will continue to exist. Pushing a program “outside” the FYDP, as with SSBN(X), means the Navy can still say it’ll get it, but means it won’t have to put the full price tag on this budget it’s sending to Congress.


The Ohio-replacement is just one of many high-priced programs to get pushed down the line in Monday’s budget, “saving” an estimated $4.3 billion over the plan from 2013 to 2017. That goes for the Ground Combat Vehicle, which will account for $1.3 billion “saved;” a total of some $8.2 billion in military construction for the Army and Air Force; and others . Some programs are being pushed back without a clear view toward their “savings” or even their viability — Air Force Comptroller Marilyn Thomas told reporters that the service’s planned replacement for its trainer aircraft, “T-X” was being pushed back to 2017, and it didn’t seem as though officials want to deal with it a moment before they absolutely must. The Air Force’s planned M-QX drone seems to have disappeared so far into the future everyone forgot about it.

The Navy is pushing back development of a new amphibious ship, an attack submarine and some of its littoral combat ships, as we learned last month. But the day’s biggest enchilada was obviously the F-35: 179 jets will move out of the FYDP for a “savings” of $15.1 billion. Thirteen of those airplanes were deleted in fiscal 13, meaning this year’s orders will work out to six F-35Bs for the Marines; four F-35Cs for the Navy; and 19 F-35As for the Air Force. The technical issues with the airplanes still aren’t resolved — more on that in a moment — but DoD officials said they hoped the reduced orders would hit a sweet spot that balances keeping unit costs “low” (relatively speaking) but also slow production enough for Lockheed and the program office to resolve some of the aircraft’s problems.

Secretary Panetta, for his part, acknowledged to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Monday that the F-35 still has a long way to go before it’s ready to fight. As Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported, Panetta responded to their letter asking about the B’s probation by spelling out areas in which the B is doing better, all the while acknowledging he’s “acutely aware” of the importance of getting the program right. But crucially, Capaccio reported that DoD’s top testing officer, Michael Gilmore, was not involved with the decision to let the B off probation. If you needed more evidence that “probation” was a non-thing, there it is.

Panetta’s exchange with the Senate is a good example of the dangers involved with DoD’s delay-everything strategy: If nothing has actually improved at the end of your delay, your program is still in danger. But there’s another one — delaying programs can cause their unit costs to increase. Those increases can cause future DoD officials or lawmakers to call for your program to be scaled back. Lower quantities can mean higher unit costs, and all of a sudden you’re in the death spiral.

DoD’s budget submission takes an across-the-board wager that it can carefully and aggressively manage the cost growth of programs it pushes to the right. But when so many of them are moving downstream, and even out of the FYDP, the task becomes that much more complex. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale acknowledged Monday that one of the most important goals will be managing the Building’s program “stretch-outs,” but said that overall, he was optimistic it could be done.

The trick is, you can only brush so much dirt under the rug. In the past year, we’ve heard defense officials say over and over that there are dragons lurking just outside the FYDP, from a potential new joint ballistic missile to a new Air Force One to a brand new armed helicopter for the Army. Even known programs, taken together, are hiding just beyond the light: The Navy must somehow buy its new SSBN(X) and try to plug its cruiser-destroyer gap. The Air Force must somehow buy F-35s, KC-46A tankers and new bombers all at the same time. Each year brings the “future” ever closer, and the more programs that get pushed back, the more dollars are spoken for before you even have them.

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To delay Programs is with less exceptions a bad idea but in the actual environment impossible to avert. It is All times better to delay a Program the to kill at without replace and this simple why the requirement remains so the USA will no matter what happens a new SSBN and also a reasonably modern (F35) replacement for is already outdated Legacy fighter Fleet. The FY2013 Budget is bad why he provides too little money to prepare the Military for the coming Chinese challenge but it is on the other side also not so bad how many people claim. So the reducing are moderate and for some programs he made also the right decision so for example to kill the failed Global Hawk Block 30 Program or to slow down the production of the F35 way the Program still to have a lot of technical Problems. Other decisions are only driven by Mathematic and politics so for example to early retried 7 Ticonderoga Cruiser without replace make no mistake this ships with their Firepower will lack painful in a conflict against a real enemy like China. But Mr. Panetta has comment the FY2013 Budget really good and hit the nail on the head them he said what the cuts are painful but acceptable.

The real questions is now them the decline how has already begun 2009 with the Obama Administration and Robert Gates Program killing orgy (he killed more them 40 important Programs) and his idiotic focus on Asymmetric-warfare in favor of the preparation for real conflicts how take an existential risk for the existing of the USA is stopped with this budget. The Sequencer Cuts are the Multi megaton Nuke how continuing to still over the US National Security and the entire Global Security and how long this treatment is not eliminated and they not know the cost of his elimination it will be impossible to say how bad the situation really is.

But what I can say is what the Enemy’s and not spoke about jokes like Taliban with AK47 but about peer enemies like Chin and Russia are rising and become more and more destructive In the international politics. The Chinese Military gets from year to year double-digit percentage rises in there official Budget and this massive improve of the Chinese Military is clearly visible. So China builds already more Warships and fields more Fighter and other modern weapons them the USA and so the Future means nothing good for the Free-World.

Problem is that Sequestration is not pictured even if a senate deal is reached additional cuts will come. Which means more delays and set backs or killing a program all together. GCV is a good example now its pushed back past 2017 to field that means it wont enter service till the early to mid 2020s. Most of the time delayed means dead Joint Combat Pistol and the AH-56 is a example of that. Or even if they are dead now if any more cuts come they will be. Personally GCV and ICC and JLTV are waste of time and money. But SSBNX and more fighter upgrades are needed. How ever thing is more F-15 upgrades and F-22s is better than wasting money on this JSF which will drain dollars from more needed planes like KC-46 and B-x new bomber. Time to prioritize air power and sea power and not kick the ball down the road but prioritize.

“Delay” for some programs makes a LOT of sense, when its not JUST to balance some mythical budget. Delays can allow some of the developmental problems to be addressed before you get a bunch of retrofit efforts on the shelf courtesy of the LRIPs. Delays can also cost a great deal of money in the long run if those delays cause the production line and supply train to stall or leave our operational forces hung out to dry because of the unavailable capabilities that were being assumed.

They just have to be very careful of picking the delays.

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