June 24, 2009
By Mackenzie Eaglen and Eric Sayers
The U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee will
complete its markup of H.R.2647, the National Defense Authorization
Act for fiscal year (FY) 2010, last week. The full House
will likely begin debate and pass its version this
While considering the legislation, committee members made
several important steps to begin reversing some of President
Obama's most alarming proposals. The legislation is not without its
flaws, however, as it fails to restore funding for the missile
defense budget. When the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee
completes its markup this week, it should retain many of the House
recommendations while restoring missile defense funding.
What the House Armed Services
Committee Got Right
The House Armed Services Committee legislation for 2010 started
down a sound path by funding many solid programs and initiatives.
Just a few highlights from the bill that should be kept in future
versions and signed into law include:
The Merits of H.R. 2647
1. Establishing an Independent National Defense Panel.
The need for an open dialogue about senior-level assumptions that
are currently driving Pentagon strategy and budget decision-making
is becoming increasingly apparent. In February, Secretary Gates
asked those working on the draft 2010 defense budget to sign
nondisclosure agreements and later made any additional revelation
permanent even though the budget was submitted to Congress.
In addition to announcing that shifts in overall Pentagon
posture and risk management will be managed as part of the QDR
process, Secretary Gates has indicated that future cuts and
cancellations for a variety of weapons systems will result from the
FY 2011 budget.
A bipartisan, independent National Defense Panel tasked with
reviewing the assumptions and recommendations of the QDR strategy
review process is a critical step Congress should take to reassert
its constitutional authority over the defense planning process and
challenge the assumptions now prevalent within the office of the
secretary of defense.
2. Providing Advance Procurement Funding for Virginia-Class
Attack Submarines. The U.S. Navy requires 48 attack submarines
(SSNs) to maintain its undersea capability. However, as the old
Los Angeles-class attack boats continue to age, the number
of available submarines is projected to fall, reaching the low 40s
by the 2020s.
H.R. 2647 rightly stresses the need to reverse "the declining
trend in Navy force structure." This is encouraging language for the U.S.
submarine fleet, which has declined from 79 SSNs in 1996 to 53 in
2008--a decrease of over 41 percent.
H.R. 2647 provides advance procurement for two additional
Virginia-class boats each year after FY 2011. The long-held
plan to procure two subs per year should yield eight
Virginia-class boats from 2009 through 2013 in a 1-1-2-2-2
production rate. If the Navy adopts the two-per-year built
rate that H.R. 2647 supports, only then may the U.S. submarine
fleet be properly sustained.
3. Authorizing a Multi-Year Procurement for Additional
F/A-18s for the Navy.In April 2009, Chief of Naval Operations
Admiral Gary Roughead stated that due to F/A-18 retirements and the
unavailability of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35, between 2016 and
2025 the Navy would face a "strike fighter gap."
House committee members have made clear their legitimate
concerns about the Navy's looming fighter bathtub. The bill
correctly determines that the purchase of new F/A-18s is the
appropriate response to alleviate the coming Navy fighter gap.
The House committee bill therefore recommends a multi-year
procurement contract for new F/A-18/E/Fs and EA-18G fighters. The
legislation also authorizes an extra $108 million for advance
procurement of parts after FY 2010 and an additional $56 million
specifically for the EA-18Gs. The Congressional Budget Office is also
authorized to evaluate the overall cost effectiveness of the
decision to procure more F/A-18s rather than refitting and
extending the service lives of current fighters.
4. Sustaining F-22 Production.The House Armed Services
Committee smartly chose to allocate $369 million for the advance
procurement of parts for 12 additional F-22s in FY 2011. Though a
step in the right direction, this level of funding still leaves the
Air Force short of the 243 F-22s that General Norton Schwartz, Air
Force chief of staff, testified would be a "moderate risk" force.
President Obama's decision to cap F-22 production at 186
fighters would in actuality yield only about 127 combat-ready
aircraft because some fighters will also be used for training and
testing. This reduced level will also ensure a more rapid
expiration of the fleet's service life.
After subcommittee markup, Representative Neil Abercrombie
(D-HI), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Air
and Land Forces, said that it was the sense of Congress that 20
more F-22s were necessary if only to provide "breathing room." He
also appeared confident that the money required to procure an
additional 20 fighters would be found.
The Senate should help identify those offsets to purchase an
additional 20 F-22 fifth-generation fighters. Any measure that
increases or enhances F-22 numbers and capability ultimately
strengthens the Air Force's ability to achieve air dominance and
should be supported by the Congress.
H.R. 2647 also took the long-overdue step of requiring the
secretary of defense, in consultation with the secretary of state
and the secretary of the Air Force, to submit a report on the
potential foreign military sales of the F-22A fighter aircraft to
Japan. An allied variant of the F-22 would have a positive impact
on the aerospace industrial base, reduce the overall cost of the
platform, and enhance the overall air superiority capability of
core American allies. In addition to Japan, the U.S. should
also examine the prospect of selling the F-22 allied variant to
Australia and Israel.
5. Requiring Pentagon Justification for Fighter Aircraft
Retirement and Industrial Base Impact Reports.In response to
the Air Force's combat restructuring plan to accelerate the
retirement of 250 legacy fighters, H.R. 2647 requires a report to
Congress explaining the selection process and identifying new
assignments, "follow-on missions" for its servicemen, the fate of
the aircraft post-retirement, and any "capability gaps" that may
arise as a result. This provision also hedges against the
coming Air Force fighter gap and challenges the budget-driven
assumptions made by Secretary Gates and Air Force leadership.
What Is Still Missing
Foremost among the bill's shortcomings is its acquiescence to
the $1.62 billion reduction in missile defense laid out in
President Obama's FY 2010 budget--nearly a 15 percent decline from
fiscal year 2009 appropriation of $10.92 billion.
In addition, the bill supports a reduction in the number of
Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Interceptors from 43 to 30. These
cutbacks are particularly troublesome given the recent, renewed
aggression and long-range missile capability of North Korea, which,
according to General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, will be in a position to strike the continental
United States within three years.
The Senate's Turn
As the Senate Armed Services Committee marks up its version of
the 2010 defense authorization bill this week, Members should
support and retain many House initiatives including the National
Defense Panel and the purchase of additional fighters. The Senate
should specifically authorize the sale of modified F-22s to Japan
by lifting the Obey Amendment restriction. Committee members should
also restore full funding for missile defense, specifically the
Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Interceptor program.
Eaglen is Senior Policy Analyst for National Security and Eric
Sayers is a Research Assistant in the Douglas and Sarah Allison
Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The
Show references in this report
Eaglen and Eric Sayers, "Independent Panel Needed for Alternative
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Foundation Web Memo No. 2425, May 5, 2009, at http://www.heritage.org/
Eaglen and Eric Sayers, "USA: A 21st-Century Maritime
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As the Senate Armed Services Committee marks up its version of the2010 defense authorization bill this week, Members should supportand retain many House initiatives including the National DefensePanel and the purchase of additional fighters.
Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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