Winslow Wheeler, former congressional defense budget guru, has penned a provocative memo to the new Tea Party senators. His main message: the Pentagon budget needs to be frozen. Defense Secretary Robert Gates may already be readying one of the biggest cuts to the defense budget by changing the Tricare contribution of veterans, raising the prospect of a true budget battle royal.
Articles by Winslow Wheeler
The United States has spent $2 trillion since 1998 on wars and regular defense spending and has been left “with a smaller Navy and Air Force and a tiny increase in the size of the Army,” argues Winslow Wheeler, defense analyst at the Center for Defense Information. If Defense Secretary Robert Gates is serious about restructuring the military and what it buys, then he better get going or he’ll be a “wasted asset,” Wheeler says.
Robert Gates strode forth Monday into bureaucratic battle yet again, this time pledging to scrap Joint Forces Command,trim the ranks of senior officers and civilians and slash the ranks of contractors. His goal was simple: to forestall congressional or administration attempts to cut the overall Pentagon budget, as Rep. Barney Frank and others have called for. Analyst Winslow Wheeler argues Gates deserves a pat on the back for trying, but he doesn’t think this latest effort goes far enough. And he predicts Congress will still ladle out the pork.
At Thursday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing, I asked former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, now a professor at Stanford University, what chance the Gates Pentagon has of finding $100 billion in efficiencies. He laughed hard, shook his head and said: “Good luck with that!” Now, he didn’t say it can’t happen, but you get the idea. In the following commentary, Winslow Wheeler argues that there are, in fact, enormous efficiencies to be found in the Pentagon. He points to “overhead” and a recent Defense Business Board report. Read on.
Change is coming to the Pentagon. The prevailing wisdom is that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates brings it. Real change is, indeed, in the wind, but it is not coming from Gates. The long overdue program terminations and overhead savings Gates pursues are surely welcome, but they are not bringing the re-birth the Pentagon desperately needs. Luckily, others seek to do what is needed. Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., has put together an alternative budget plan to reduce spending there by $1 Trillion over 10 years.
When the Pentagon’s top buyer appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, most observers expected Ash Carter to tell lawmakers just how much each F-35 costs and how much the plane is likely to cost over time. That didn’t happen. Winslow Wheeler, a bipartisan conagreassional defense budget expert now at the Center for Defense Information, penned a detailed analysis and commentary picking apart the Pentagon’s numbers and their underlying assumptions. Winslow’s commentary follows.
Veteran Senate defense budget expert and analyst at the Center for Defense Information, Winslow Wheeler, penned the following commentary about the Senate Armed Service Committee’s Thursday hearing on the F-35. He wants to know why the Joint Estimating Team has not been invited to testify and how Pentagon acquisition czar Ash Carter can believe the JSF faces no fundamental problems, among other things.
Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality. The Navy won’t plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can’t afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its “system of system” target hunting technologies that we now know can’t find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will have to wait, but just a bit, for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago “critical nodes.” The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores — something it has not done since 1945.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have taken a small but significant step to eliminate – well, almost – one of the most outrageous congressional behaviors in defense legislation. The appropriators have not — yet. It will be interesting to see what the appropriators do. We should all pay attention.