By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News
Bloomberg.com, February 11, 2012
The U.S. Defense Department's fiscal 2013 spending plan draws more than 40 percent of proposed reductions from weapons accounts that contribute less than a fifth of the budget, based on Pentagon projections.
The military budget that President Barack Obama will send to Congress on Feb. 13 calls for $525 billion in spending, a reduction of $45 billion from previous projections. About $18.7 billion of the cuts would come from weapons procurement, according to data provided by an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the budget hasn’t been submitted.
The breakdown shows the Pentagon is cutting weapons more deeply in an effort to limit cuts in personnel and benefits, according to Todd Harrison, a defense analyst.
“Compare that to spending on military personnel, which accounts for one-third of the budget but is only taking one- ninth of the cuts,” Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, said yesterday in an e- mail. “Protecting pay, benefits, and end strength is a higher priority than modernizing weapon systems.”
The $98.8 billion the Pentagon will propose spending on weapons in fiscal 2013 compares with $117.5 billion it had projected for the same period a year ago. Through 2017, cuts in weapons spending would average about 37 percent of the annual reductions projected by the administration, according to a nonpartisan government analyst who also spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget submission.
Details behind the reductions will unfold over the next month as lawmakers and their staffs press the Pentagon for specifics and military officials outline their respective service budgets.
A five-year plan outlined by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month calls for slowing weapons acquisition and reducing forces by 100,000. That plan already has been criticized by Republican lawmakers as cutting too many people.
“The president has abandoned the defense structure that has protected America for two generations, turning 100,000 soldiers and Marines out of the force,” California Republican Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a Jan. 26 statement.
Few weapons systems would be canceled outright by the Pentagon.
“The absence of big program kills may suggest to investors that DoD investment fared relatively well,” Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners LLC in Washington said in an e-mail. “These procurement figures suggest a tougher reality for industry. Even without big, iconic platform cuts, industry will still see some pain.”
One project being canceled is $4 billion to modernize the C-130 transport plane built by Lockheed Martin Corp.The Navy plans to cut eight of nine planned Austal Ltd. high-speed transports.
Phi Beta Iota: In passing, the C-130 is the only aircraft in the inventory that can land virtually anywhere–this is important since the US Navy cannot get into 50% of the ports world-wide and the US Air Force is incapable of sustained diverse long-haul airlift. Bloomberg skirts the hard truths to be found in an honest thorough analysis.