CNO Starts Budget Chicken Game

CNO Starts Budget Chicken Game

Yesterday the CNO ordered his flags and SES-types to begin taking steps to cut the Navy’s budget. Some specific actions outlined in an official memorandum include the following (as reported by a Virginian Pilot article posted at Military​.com):

– Plans to cancel maintenance for about 30 Navy ships at private shipyards between April and September.

– Plans to cancel depot maintenance for about 250 aircraft between April and September.

– Terminations of temporary civilian employees and a civilian hiring freeze. This will reduce the shipyards’ workforce by more than 3,000 people.

– Reductions in base spending and plans to cancel most repairs and upgrades of piers, runways, buildings and other facilities.

Adm. Greenert hints at his motivation for going public with these actions by writing that the they could be reversed if Congress ponies up the approriate funds before too long.

And so it goes, this game of chicken played between the services and lawmakers. And to be clear, this particular back-and-forth lives outside of the looming issue of sequestration. This one just involves the fact that Congress is holding the Navy to 2012 funding levels, which the Navy says will put it $4.6 billion short in 2013. If sequestration happens these sorts of reductions will seem modest by comparison.

So is this just the same drill that has gone on in years past, one that ultimately won’t result in the loss of jobs and work for companies, or is this year different because of the fiscal crisis?

Either way, Greenert wants an answer soon as any delay will cost the Navy money. “Much like putting off an oil change because you can’t afford the $20 service, we save in the short term, but shorten the car’s life and add to the backlog of work for later,” he wrote in the memo.

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It’s not just the Navy. In the Army the term and temp civilians just got 2 weeks notice. There are 46,000 civilians in the DoD that fall into this category, and Ash Carter was quoted this week saying they’re all going to be laid off if nothing happens in the coming days.

This is like all budget crunches in the past. Maybe a little bigger. It always starts with the teachers and firefighters and police. Like they are the only things that can be cut. They do get the most attention. I dare say mothballing a carrier group or just stop buying JSF until it is fixed would probably be all that is needed. It is hard to believe that 10–15% of the budget could only be cut in these few areas. The bad thing will be when they discover no less work gets done with everyone taking an extra day off a week.

The temps don’t have the same employment rights as the perms so they’re easier to lay off. It’s easier to fire a person than stop maintaining a multi million dollar piece of equipment. Fire a $40k a year employee who works behind a desk, and you can always find someone else to fill their shoes later. Allow a $50 million aircraft or $1 billion ship to rust and it may never work right again. It’s annoying because it eats up so much of the budget, but stopping work on the JSF would disrupt thousands of other workers (many of them skilled laborers and engineers) in the industry and make the product even more expensive in the long run. Stopping work on depot level maintenance is slightly easier, but it still means it’ll cost more to get back on track when the funding becomes available.

One perspective is that since the defense budget has been building at about 2% per year, and there are really no major threats to face down with our massive forces, we can take a breather to help close the annual deficit and pay down the national debt. That’s not unreasonable. After all, the Pentagon has squandered tens of billions of dollars on costly pet rocks, without giving up anything in return. For example, they have not offset the capabilities of all these unmanned aircraft in surveillance and combat roles by cutting the number of jet fighters (JSF F-35s). Times are changing and DoD refuses to budge to fiscal realities. That’s why they need to be knocked upside the head to get on with the business of cutting back force structure and all the expensive toys. I don’t see any Taliban or Al Queda air force or navy (or Russian or Chinese for that matter) out there pushing us around. But I guess war is now a core (read: “entitlement”) U.S. industry.

With a sane budget process, we could avoid much of this theater and get on with the mission — within whatever constratnts imposed by Congress. This institution has the power of the purse, if exercised in a responsible manner we’d all be better off.

The issue isn’t the budget cuts, but rather the irresponsible actions of Congress not being able to tell the DoD just what the hell their budget is this year. I’m sorry to see some of my coworkers go, but if Congress would just sit down and vote on legislation like we hired them to these budget cuts could be done in an orderly fashion. If Congress voted on our budget and said “you will lose $10 billion next year, start planning” we could deal with that. But instead we’ve been dealing with “You’re going to have a budget cut, or a last minute hatchet taken to your budget, we can’t decide, we’ll just drag this out for two years while you stew.” The Army has a step by step process for getting smaller now that the war is almost over and has tried to stick to it, but Congress recently said “hang on, we’re not going to let you lay off as many soldiers as you want while forcing you to guess every day just how many you can actually afford to keep in uniform.”

The maintenance the CNO described and Panetta has talked about have to be budgeted and scheduled months in advance. Right now in my unit we’re sitting here planning for an exercise this summer that may not happen because the funding could disappear any day now. The uncertainty is killing morale.

Reduce the scale of the LCS program? Downselect one design and cut back on orders. I’d also say to hit the JSF program, but secure a back-up first, and by that I mean plan to use other designs and make sure production capacity is available. Hitting maintenance is a terrible idea, cut back on orders before jeopardizing what we already have.

A $4.6B shortfall equates to about a single new Zumwalt or possibly two new Burkes. If CNO weren’t playing political games (either that or he’s ill-advised to the point of stupidity) this would be a simple matter of cancelling or delaying one or two new construction projects and continuing business as usual. Delaying maintenance shortens the life of the entire fleet — now that is stupidity.

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The federal budget game is two sided. While Congress has the power of the purse, there is nothing that says the President can’t submit a smaller budget to start. The Army and Marines are only cutting back to before “the surge.” They still will be too big and too costly. The President needs to start this process of downsizing, and not just the Defense Department. Our country is at risk of default and we are still playing games about who’s the biggest bully on the block! We need our brave men and women in uniform to have the courage to tell the President they should be doing less with less. The President doesn’t really need to wait for the Congress.

So…which generals are going to say “that’s okay, we’ll make it work” before boarding the VIP jet to Germany again?

Debating if retiring Ticos 1:1 with new Burkes will save the fleet future recapitalization money. We’re already starting to do so with the VLS-less Ticos, for example.

Alternatively, delaying the DDG buildout may save projected costs of building new ships, but will increase long term maintenance costs on existing ships and increase costs on the ones under construction due to loss of economies of scale.

obama doesnt care, neither does harry reid..the house has passed 5 bills to avert sequestration..flood harry reids inbox and ask him why he is doign this to our military.…dang commmie

I’ve got a radical idea, why don’t we cut back on the number of federal agencies from over 1300 to some Constitutional number like 4 or 5. That would solve the budget problem real quick.

Also, with the vast rise in costs of the flight three Burkes, it may be more cost effective to switch the design to the Zumwalts. Already the Flight IIA restarts are half the unit cost of a Zumwalt, and the flight III ships are going to be worse. Perhaps future orders should be the Zumwalts to replace Ticos, and continue with flight IIA burkes as replacements. Either way, your point is still valid, the Burke is a much better deal than the Tico.

I believe that would be the ones who exist in disney movies.


Well, if the military had been able to sustain its operations without increasing its force structure, this might be a valid argument. But it is not. In every operation back to Desert Storm, I’ve seen them rob from Peter to pay Paul. The military is baselined for peacetime not wartime operations, so every time you use the military, they bust their budget​.In many ways it was irresponsible to increase active duty force structure with no assurance that those numbers would hold. It is not quite as bad as the “surges” of 1798, or 1812–14, when the regular army increased by 400–500%, but this is really no way to treat people, asking them to serve in combat and then throwing them out with nothing but a handshake. We seem to be committed to going back to that kind of irresponsible way of doing business.

Thanks for all the interesting points made here. Taxpayer, you point to the key question: what is the right size/force mix for the US military? I’ve seen some reports on this topic, but they get no press coverage. In light of a broken acquisition system — that has squandered billions — and an obsolete personnel system, it’s easy for this important question to get lost. Vitesse, as veteran I understand your sentiment, but the expanded force structure we created over the last two years is too much.

We are faced with yet another example of something I’ve seen all too ofen in public life: with nobody willing to take a hard decision, the easiest course of action is to pass the cost of inertia onto the taxpayer.;

I think the main problem with our military today is we have taken on a corporate structure… My last trip to Iraq we had a larger immobile Headquarters element than we had actual soldiers out on mission.

” I’d also say to hit the JSF program, but secure a back-up first, and by that I mean plan to use other designs and make sure production capacity is available.”

There isn’t a viable alternative and if you start monkeying with schedule you’re only going to drive the cost up.

Why does the Navy need $4.6 billion this year over last year esp when there has been no pay increase? The Navy and the other services need to stop expanding their staffs and overhead positions. Check OPM stats under http://​www​.fedscope​.opm​.gov and compare the latest civilian positions by grade and numbers for each organization to what is was a few years ago. The growth in high grades and positions is unbelieveable and needs a congressional hearing and commsiion to investigate. There is waste in the pentagon budget and threathening furloughs to scare Congress is just wrong. Streamline the organizations by attrition and the problem is solved and down size the trillion dollar department.

LOL at “Starting to do this with VLS-less Ticos”. That ship sailed many years ago and there have not been any “VLS-less Ticos” in the fleet for many years now.

I’m very interested in your comment here. Please tell me where Force Structure was increased in the past few years other than the 50 thousand or so Army and 20 thousand Marine personnel (which are already being cut).
Everywhere I look, I’m seeing less and less force structure in the Air Force and Navy.

The FY13 budget is higher than the FY12 budget due to increases in procurement. The DoD not cleaning house of waste is wrong, but Congress has a subcommittee for that too. The fact that they don’t take their responsibilities seriously either doesn’t help.

According to the normal Congressional calendar, the DoD is supposed to begin work on the FY14 budget next week. It’s kinda hard to do that when Congress hasn’t passed the FY13 budget. That would be the budget we’re already 4 months into.

With our shift into the Pacific the Navy should get as much money as possible. Seems the bloated Army budget should get cut more for more funds for the Navy. Overall sequestration will cut all services past the quick so bad news for all. I doubt we will see the DDG 100 and 1002 for another decade minimum.

If they can’t make due with 630,000,000,000 there is something wrong with military. Not to mention trillions in unaccounted for monies.

I’m well aware of the flight III Burkes, but cost has still been ballooning for not that many improvements. The flight threes are going to be based off of the KDX-III design (King Sejong the great) and will add 32 missile cells, new radar, a single AGS gun, and some other small updates. The Zumwalts are going to have a better radar, take half the crew, have better gun systems, a lower profile and most importantly a brand new platform. These flight III ships are the final evolution of the Burke design, you can’t take them much further. On the other hand the Zumwalts are somewhat superior at stock load, and have plenty of potential for upgrades. I’m normally a fan of extending older systems for cost-effectiveness, but the flight IIIs aren’t any more cost-effective than the Zumwalts, and don’t have much more growth potential.

This, so much. Honestly, if I were the DoD, I’d be real fed up with congress’ budget shenanigans as they are preventing anything getting done. They’re always behind on the budget talks, and are only getting stopgap budgets past. I’m not going to blame any politicians or parties, but congress has been absolutely stagnant for years.

DoD is bloated beyond imagination. Instead of whining and running around like Chicken Little these FOs and SES types just need to get to work and do their jobs —- start cutting fat and practice fiscal responsibility. The river of money going to DoD needs to turn into a stream. Way to much waste.

I’ve been a DoD Civilian/military for 32 years, have worked at Army, AF, Navy bases and with DISA. And I have to say that today, DoD is a force of 3rds. One third of the people are doing nothing, surfing the web, idle chatter or making work for themselves, Another third aren’t doing work that has any meaning —- we have policy makers making policy that isn’t needed, empires of civilians to keep themselves busy without producing anything, and my favorite — Junior Officers (O2-04) always dream up some pet project that is not needed, causing money to be wasted in procurement and in implementation — just so they can put something on their Fitness Report. Once they roll out, the ‘project’ suddenly dies because it was never needed in the first place, Finally, we have the third that actually does work that needs to be done to support their Service/Agency. When push comes to shove this work will continue to get done and the rest of the fluff will be cut.

Bottom line — if DoD can’t cut 10% then they need to fire the proverbial top two floors of the Pentagon and start over.

Bravo Zulu 68gto,
My experience is in line with yours and what you say is correct. Get rid of the waste !!! Oh but wait, who is going to do this? Much of this waste is owned by the upper level managers. Catch 22

Ticket to Galt’s Gulch, anyone?

Hear hear! Everybody is happy to cut the military just as they are happy to cut the police, fire fighters, and teachers but nobody wants to cut the political crooks or the bloated bureaucracies in the federal gov’t. I know we could do better in the Acquisition world of the DOD but then again, most of those staffs are the same Beltway bandits that are corrupting the gov’t. Oh and here’s another one: get rid of the excess Flags. I read something the other day about how the number of Flags (with their staffs) has increased by over 50% (don’t remember the exact number) while the working grunts get axed and the remaing ones are told to suck it up and do more with less.

How about having some bring your own toilet paper to work days and cutting out federal ethnic awareness festivities at the workplace (well, ethnically we’re all the same now..we’re screwed blue and tattooed)?

Interesting that quite a few people want to cut the JSF program but what about the C-17 or the new P-8 program. We still have P-3s out there, why do we need brand new P-8s. What we need is a Congress that is doing its job. If they can’t do the job then we the people need to FIRE them.

And all the Union BHubbas and any one else who voted for this Administration say WHAAAT. Elections have consequences.

Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper demonstrated that a swarming attack may be a very good tactic against carriers. He used swarms of small boats in a war game, but China is taking a path toward faster attack with swarms of UAVs. China is throwing a lot of effort into developing UAV technology, toward using swarms of armed multi-mission UAVs against US Carrier Strike Groups, overwhelming their defenses.

Instead of building bigger Arleigh Burke DDGs to carry a neutered AMDR, the US Navy needs to revist the idea of building a new big CGN to provide big aperature AMDR and provide air and missile defense for the CSG, and they should be looking more closely at using the Ford class CVN hull as a basis for developing the CGN. Increasing rate of production on those hulls and systems would lower unit cost, and provide a useful element to the CSG. The added hull capacity and nuclear electric power plant could be used for fuel oil synthesis using the technology that currently demonstrating rapid successful development at ONR, reducing the CSG’s dependence on fuel oil resupply.


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