Can McKeon’s right turn save the defense budget?

Can McKeon’s right turn save the defense budget?

“The president proposes, but Congress disposes,” as House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon once said, quoting a grand old Hill chestnut.

To that end, McKeon and his comrades on the Armed Services Committee this week have been unveiling a very different vision for the near term than the one the Pentagon submitted with its annual budget request earlier this year.

Steep drawdowns? Nope. Smaller fleets? Uh-uh. Idled tank production line? Negative, Ghost Rider.


Moreover, McKeon said in a speech Wednesday evening that he wants to step up support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as field ballistic missile defense interceptors at a site somewhere in the U.S. Plus he warned about the aging nuclear stockpile and the Navy’s proposed delay for its Ohio-class submarine replacement.

“We’ll look to restore some of the R&D funding there, to help keep our nuclear triad replacements on time and on schedule,” McKeon said. “Remember, our nuclear deterrent is our best defense against nations that want a strategic advantage over the United States.”

What’s more, McKeon would “eliminate the military health care fees proposed by the administration” and make sure DoD was capable of “upgrading certain sensor and intelligence platforms, investing in capabilities like minesweeping, and procuring certain weapons like powerful bunker busting munitions.”

In short, where the Obama administration and Secretary Panetta want DoD to get smaller, McKeon wants it to stay the same or grow. The HASC would keep the Air Force’s Block 30 Global Hawks; maintain production at General Dynamics’ tank plant in Lima, Ohio; fully fund DoD’s requests for V-22s, F-35s, Super Hornets and Growlers; give the Air Force 12 extra Reaper UAVs; and other things.

In some places, McKeon did give an implicit concession that not everything is possible: “The administration plans to retire nine guided missile cruisers before the end of their lifespan,” he said. “We hope to save three of those ships, sending them to the docks for modernization instead of mothballing.” But — “The Navy has requested funding in the shipbuilding budget for nine additional destroyers; we’ll authorize them to build 10.”

(It’s unclear whether that “nine” cruiser number is new or a mistake — the Navy had said before it only wanted to mothball seven ships. Either way, the earlier line from House Republicans was that the Navy should keep six of the seven, so three is a downgrade. )

But there’s an even more basic question than how many ships are at stake here: Can any of this actually happen?

The Navy is counting on its cruisers going away to afford its remaining surface force. The Air Force is preparing to ice its C-27J Spartans even before Congress has actually given the go-ahead. The Army is unmoved in its belief that General Dynamics’ Lima, Ohio tank plant must go dark for a few years to save money. And all those assumptions themselves assume the budgetary guillotine doesn’t fall this January, slicing away another $500 billion in planned DoD budget growth.

McKeon said the sequestration threat must be dealt with, but he didn’t say how. He warned about the dangers the U.S. debt crisis poses to its national security, but gave no prescriptions for resolving it. This may be because McKeon has already talked elsewhere about his proposal to begin reducing the federal workforce in order to defray the first year of sequestration, to give Congress “more time” to reach a permanent solution.

The only problem is that congressional Democrats and President Obama won’t go along. In fact, Obama has promised to veto any measure that would void or defray sequestration, denying Congress a get-out-of-bad-legislation-free card. That sure makes Republicans mad but it does not make any progress toward resolving this impasse. So after more time has ticked by and the Armed Services Committee chairman has given another major speech, Washington has made zero forward progress.

It’s probably too late for a deal. Republicans and Democrats have staked out their positions and now will wait for voters to break the logjam, even though it’ll be the same Congress that comes back after the election and has to deal with sequestration and the expiring Bush-era tax cuts. In the meantime, there’s no percentage in compromise.

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McKeon should ask the pentagon to stop wasting money on useless programs and ask for cancellation of the LCS program. He should demand that the USAF address the buffeting issues of the F-35 this year, not in 2014. If those cannot be fixed, the F-35 would be undeployable. He should push the administration on China’s nuclear weapons program. In reality, so far he has really not offered any alternative strategic vision compared to the Obama adminsitration.

Does he have $100 billion tucked away somewhere we don’t know about? There’s a reason the DoD is looking at doing everything on that list that he wants to magically reverse.

Good to see somebody fighting back against the socialist traitors Obama and the Democrats.

Thats a good troll.

I think it is high time for people like McKeon to justify these increases in spending. How to they improve “national security?” How do they make us safer? Why do we need more armored vehicles from Lima (besides jobs)? I think you can justify the Growlers and the Reapers, and I am not an expert on a lot of this stuff, but we can’t afford to just buy everything anymore with the only supporting argument that failing to do so would “hurt national security.” The HASC is obsessed with red herrings.

Superraptor has is dead on. This idiot Bucky McKenon wants unlimited spending when the nation has NO money to spend. The need to axe unneeded projects like GCV and ICC to save money for new ships subs and JLTVs is key and dingbat McKenon wont do it because he just wants to spend for spending sake. Tell this idiot to shut up. We need modernization more F-22s and F-15 upgraded and DDG-1000 destroyers, not crap like Global Hawks the USAF doesn’t even want!

Apparently the HASC is also doing it’s best to kill any new round of BRAC, which is an area where the DoD could save some real money if they were allowed to do it. But BRAC gets into so many rice bowls its a political 3rd-rail…

If a new BRAC is like the BRAC we’re still doing, I disagree. These studies don’t account for the intellectual property we misallocate and put at risk as part of the BRAC process. The way they savaged the Army’s TDA infrastructure in the 2005 BRAC was stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. Did I say that it was stupldly done ? Note everyone is going to move. If you want people to take early retirement and become contractors, that’s the way to go. And you taint the institution at large with a sense that people matter less than the bottom line — you get what you pay for. Reorganize ? Sure — get as many efficiencies as you can to do that — but don’t use BRAC as a forcing function to lean out the enterprise.

@ Lance– I agree! Let’s upgrade some of the inventory, build what will work for National Defense and cut what doesn’t work. Seems the Air Force only agrees on one cut, the C-27J, but wants to spend lots more $$$ in programs that need to vetted first, namely the F-35. I agree that the C-27J is the “little engine that could” but it is just not worth keeping just to make a small amount of Guradsmen happy. same with the Littoral Combat ships.

There are also up front costs with BRAC that you don’t get a return on for years. It costs money to shut down a small city and move all the equipment and people.

True…I think I saw somewhere it takes about 5 years to see the benefits…basically one FYDP.

I can’t speak to the Army situation you’re talking about, but I know in the AF base infrastructure eats up a huge chunk of the total budget. When Congress holds the line and basically fences off half the budget to protect bases in their states, there’s only so much you can cut. Then, when you have to start cutting flying hours, training, spares…whamo! Hollow force. But, we’ve done that after every major conflict since the Revolution.

I’m currently assigned to a unit that was moved from the east coast to west coast due to BRAC, and it was like starting from scratch. Most of our personnel were dispersed and the soldiers and DA civilians who didn’t move with us (nearly all) had to be rehired or pulled in from across the Army. There was little institutional knowledge retained and a small fortune in equipment was lost during the transfer. But our situation may be isolated.

What is common to all Army installations that get shut down is the environmental costs. If the base had a heavily used range complex, then million of dollars and several years are needed to clean up the place before anyone else can be allowed to purchase and use the land. I’d have to look it up, but the costs probably equal what it costs to keep the base open for a couple years.

Yep, the environmental clean-up costs are gonna be big for any military base. Most AF bases are floatin on top of a layer of jet fuel, diesel oil, you name it.

Only real answer is major, and I mean major, cuts to force structure. War in Iraq is over. War in Afghanistan is a waste (they don’t have an economy to support all those army and police guys we’re training) after we leave. We didn’t really take a peace dividend after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cut the troops and lots of the planes, ships and other pricey equipment go with it. You could cut a third and we’d still have enough to kick anyone else’s b***. No other way to save any money. All this other chatter about this and that specific piece of equipment is marginal. Time for the admirals and generals to get out of their denial stage and face reality. We’re broke.

U.S. money problems. Here’s how it plays out. With $15 trillion in accumulated debt, and another $3 trillion “printed” by the Federal Reserve, (a) it would take all of the $2.3 trillion in national income (income, payroll and all other taxes, no $1.4 trillion in borrowed money) 10 years (at 5% interest)(like a business loan) to pay off the national debt. No money for anything else in the Federal government. Or (b) if we treat like a 30-year mortgage, it would take half of that amount, leaving the Federal government only $1.1 trillion a year to cover the $3.7 trillion in expenses. That means the government would have to be cut by 70%. Including Buck’s national defense. Time to get real and stop policing the world from mostly imaginery threats. Time to make the other rich countries pay up and defend themselves.

Major force cuts are not the answer! Do you honestly believe the governments spending problem is due to the military? Their spending problem is with everything else. We are overdue for modernization of many assets. The size of our forces has been continually shrinking since the ‘90s. And you think cutting 1/3 of the military will somehow fix things? The entire concept of the “peace dividend” was an illusion to begin with yet some people still want to chase after it and cut everything to the bone in the process.

This isn’t even good math. The force structure didn’t increase by 1/3 after 9/11, so logically, you must be saying that it was not reduced enough in the 1990s. And what William C. says is correct. As far as major systems are concerned, we took a procurement holiday in the 90s, and then Gates whacked virtually everthing in the pipeline except for the F-35. I simply do not believe that your motivation is simply to save money.

First off, paying off the national debt isn’t even on the table. What is success ? I think success is to get back to a long term balanced budget while maintaining both discretionary and entitlements spending at acceptable levels. Too many people think they can get away with robbing from Peter to pay Paul.

Look at Fort Ord. The place is still a wasteland. They will never use that downrange area again for any useful purpose And yet there are two DoD installations still going — NPS and DLI in Monterey. They turned the barracks into a civilian college, instead of moving the schools on post and closing the smaller installations. And of course all the base housing went away. Just a racket for realtors.

First nearly all decision how there taken by the house Armed committee are right. The Navy need more Submarines and Destroyer and the navy should not to retreat some of is powerfulness warships 10 or more years before there real end of their lives. To shout down the M1A2 Production Line will also not save money but destroy the industrial base and the USA will never be again capable to build a tank they saw this sometimes them a ability is it is nearly impossible to restore this ability so to save the M1A2 Line is one of the best decision how was made in the last 3 Years. The only point how the House is wrong is the Global Hawk Block 30 this Program is a completely fail and has no future.

Second the real Problem remain Sequestration and this Problem has already become a historical dimension why he can end the USA as the leading World Power immediately and the only path to stop this madness is an election how gives one side the upper hand in this Game. So the GOP must take the Senate one all cost them the can do this it will be not necessary to win also the White House but it will be a nice to have but them this is not possible the GOP should lose the House why the worst case is the continuation of the current status.

Have you been to DLI? It’s built right up against one of the hills and walking distance to the beach. Why give that up?

Build more Virginia Subs, keep the Nukes, and get a New Bomber. The rest is optional.

Someone needs to eliminate excess depots and the make work projects that currently keep them alive. You don’t need both Anniston and Red River.

What do you mean by no peace dividend was taken after the cold war. The Navy shrunk by about half. The Air Force and Army shrunk a LOT… between a third and a half of force structure.
And that was from the forces at the END of the cold war which were already shrunk a lot from earlier in the cold war.

I like it and a new ICBM!

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