Today and over the next few days, the Project On Government Oversight will offer a rolling analysis of President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget, which was just released and is now available here. The budget is a blueprint for the initiatives the President would fund if he was unconstrained by Congress. Congress may use the budget as a starting point for appropriations, but also has the capacity to ignore Obama’s suggestions and will likely change some of the levels of funding if it passes appropriations bills for FY 2014.
Sequestration is also introducing considerable uncertainty into this year’s budget process. The Continuing Resolution passed last month did not adhere to the budgetary caps of sequestration, as laid out in the Budget Control Act of 2011, and neither has the President’s FY 2014 budget request. Ignoring the reality of sequestration makes the budget somewhat meaningless, as many of these numbers will drop considerably unless Congress and the President pass legislation to undo sequestration. For example, the Department of Defense’s actual FY 2014 budget will be more than $52 billion below the President’s request if sequestration isn’t altered. POGO has extensively outlined areas for finding savings in the Pentagon budget in our Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter recommendations, jointly released with Taxpayers for Common Sense. We have giant bull’s eyes on several nuclear weapons-related programs such as a massive new Energy Department project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and some troubled weapons programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship.
We’ll also be looking for signs of a reduction in spending on service contractors. In our Bad Business report released in 2011, we estimated that for 35 comparable job occupations examined, service contractors cost taxpayers on average nearly twice as much as in-house government workers (for a discussion of data and analytical limitations in our report, go here).
Finally, we think it’s vital that President Obama invest in federal spending transparency and in the nation’s watchdogs: the Office of Special Counsel, the Government Accountability Office, and the Offices of Inspectors General—an analysis of these budget requests on these watchdogs will come later this week.
[Pentagon Spending Commentary]
Joint Strike Fighter
An F-35B performs a test bomb drop.
By the Numbers: FY2012: $9.246 billion | FY2013 Request: $9.171 billion | Fy 2014 Request: $8.4 billion
The Joint Strike Fighter, or F-35, is the most expensive weapon program ever, with the total cost of the program expected to exceed $1.5 trillion.
The program was recently criticized by both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the DoD’s own testing office. The (GAO) recently reported that the programs expected costs increased by $101 million during the past year, largely due to increases in development and construction costs. The Director of Operational Test & Evaluation at the Pentagon recently found a number of deficiencies with the F-35, including problems with the radar, pilot’s helmet, and the training program.
Despite these recent events and the F-35’s history of cost-overruns and under-performance, the President’s budget “includes $8.4 billion to continue the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) aircraft program, which is designed to counter threats posed by a sophisticated adversary.”
Littoral Combat Ship
By the numbers: FY2012: $2.118 billion | FY2013 Request: $2.339 billion | FY 2014 Request $2.3895 billion
Analysis: Despite a plethora of problems, including the Lockheed Martin variant’s hull cracking and equipment failures that POGO first reported, the President’s budget requests $2.3895 billion for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, which “Funds construction of four LCS seaframes and procurement of mission modules.”
The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation has reported that the “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment,” and, travelling to its first deployment this year, the first LCS has repeatedly lost power at sea.
There’s also evidence that having two distinct variants of the ship will lead to higher costs. Had the President eliminated one variant of this ship (as POGO/TCS recommended), and procured only two ships of that one variant this year (instead of two of each of the two variants), taxpayers could have saved nearly $1 billion dollars in FY2014.
M-1 Abrams Tank
By the numbers: FY2012: $583.9 million | FY2013 Request: $300.8 million | FY2014 Request: $279.4 million
Analysis: Despite high profile coverage of this boondoggle on CNN and The Daily Show, the President’s budget continues funding for the M-1 Abrams tank upgrades, which the Army says they don’t need.
According to the DoD, “The M1A2 Abrams provides mobile and protected firepower for battlefield superiority against heavy armor forces.” But, the Army hasn’t had to battle heavy armor forces in decades and the tanks already available are more than sufficient to engage in any such conflict in the future, as Army officials testified to Congress.
The President’s budget explains that the $279.4 million recommended for the Abrams “Supports modifications and upgrades needed to maintain the armor facility at a sustainable level and minimize loss of skilled labor.”
By the numbers: FY2012: $691.6 million | FY2013 Request: $781.7 million | FY 2014 Request: $1.68 Billion
The FY 2014 President’s budget, “Funds second year of construction for USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), completion costs for USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and continued development of ship systems.”
POGO/TCS recommended reducing the carrier fleet from 11 to 10 ships by decommissioning the USS George Washington in 2016, and not replacing it with a new Ford class supercarrier, such as the USS John F. Kennedy. This plan would still leave the Navy with as many carriers as the rest of the world, combined.
And, as the CBO has noted, “Recent experience suggests that the Navy mobilizes 5 to 7 carriers to fight a major war, and the 10 carriers remaining in the fleet under this option would still provide a force of at least 5 or 6 carriers within 90 days to fight such a war.”