Let The Good Times Roll for Lockheed Martin and the F-35
The FY15 budget was released on Fat Tuesday and, as we’ve noted for other portions of the Pentagon budget, the Mardi Gras attitude of letting the good times roll continues for Lockheed Martin and the F-35 program.
At Taxpayers for Common Sense we’ve previously said the F-35 program threatens to swallow the entire budget for combat aircraft at the Pentagon. The chart below shows what we’ve been talking about. Nearly $7.5 billion is in the budget request for just this single aircraft program. The first chart shows the Procurement and Research & Development budget lines that are readily identifiable as money for the F-35 program. Remember that Marine Corps planes are actually funded by the Department of the Navy budget.
*Navy budget documents still refer to this program by earlier nomenclature, “Joint Strike Fighter” or “JSF”
This next chart shows the portion of each service’s combat aircraft procurement budget being eaten by the F-35 in both dollars and as a percentage of the whole:
The Air Force, unbelievably, is putting all of their eggs in this one basket. Well, to keep with the Mardi Gras theme here, let’s just say they’re betting all their beads on the F-35. The Navy is being smarter about things and is also purchasing other types of combat aircraft, including the F/A-18. We think the Air Force is just trying to make it impossible for Congress to truncate or end the program for the bad deal that it is. “You can’t kill the F-35; it’s all we have!” We hope the Congress won’t be taken in by this argument.
These charts reflect only those budget lines that are readily identifiable as related to the F-35 in the base budget. We’ll keep digging to find items that are less easy to identify and also to see if the so-called “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” includes even more money for this budget-swallowing program. Watch this space for updates.
Shipbuilders Still Floating on Federal Funds
At last week’s advance budget briefing, Secretary Hagel announced his decision to truncate the operationally-inefficient Littoral Combat Ship or LCS. “I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward.” This represents a cut of 20 ships from the most recent projected inventory of 52 LCS. At TCS we call for ending the program altogether, which would save a little more than $18 billion over the next decade. Now that the budget documents are out, we see the Navy plans to buy three more LCS at a cost of a little less than $1.5 billion. We still think the program should just be cancelled.
Any excitement we might have felt about cuts to the LCS budget were dashed with Secretary Hagel’s next statement, “Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS. These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year’s budget submission.” So, although shipbuilding accounts may be taking a bit of a “haircut” this year, look for all kinds of ideas for a “lethal frigate” coming from industry to “inform” next year’s budget. We’ll be watching.
Last year, shipbuilding was funded at $15.2 billion: an increase of $1.1 billion over what the Pentagon was asking to spend. This year’s request shipbuilding request is $14.4 billion.
- VIRGINIA class submarines, two of them for roughly $5.8 billion. More than 1/3 of the Navy’s budget for ships will be “sunk” into one program.
- ARLEIGH BURKE class destroyers, two for a total of $2.8 billion.
And according to the Secretary’s briefing in late February, the budget request also includes a plan to “lay up” half of the Navy’s cruiser fleet. Under this plan, which has made Congress highly suspicious in the past, eleven cruisers would be modernized and placed in reduced operating status and “eventually” returned to the fleet. Watch for Congress to try to pin down exactly what “eventually” means.
So those are the “highlights” of the Navy’s shipbuilding plan before Congress starts amending it. We’ll have our periscope up, watching to see how much Congress adds to help out the shipbuilding industry.
No More Special War Funding Account
“…this is the first time in 13 years we will be presenting a budget to the Congress of the United States that’s not a war-footing budget.” Those were the words of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on February 24th of this year. And yet the Pentagon budget that was made public today still includes a separate fund for “Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).” OCO is what the Pentagon calls it when the rest of us call it war funding.
The FY15 budget request, released March 4, 2014 requests an additional $79.4 billion, even as we draw down our forces even further in Afghanistan. For comparison, the FY14 Omnibus included $85.1 billion in OCO funding. Why do we continue to need such high levels of funding, when we plan to reduce to a bare-bones force in Afghanistan? And the six year plan for outyear funding is $29.9 billion every year through fiscal year 2021. So, even though we plan to be out of Afghanistan, the Administration plans on spending close to $30 billion a year for another 6 years, or more than $179 billion between now and calendar year 2022. At Taxpayers for Common Sense, we think this makes no sense at all.