September 29, 2009 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense
This week, the U.S. Senate will continue debate on the fiscal year (FY) 2010 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3326). As the bill moves into conference, Members should retain funding for many important programs. Specifically, Members of the conference committee should:
Authorization to Research an Allied Variant of F-22
Even though the House included language reiterating support for the Obey amendment banning the sale of the F-22 overseas, the Senate appropriations bill includes a provision allowing the Air Force to use existing funds to develop an export version of the Raptor. While the ban may have previously made sense, America's stronger relationships with its most supportive and influential allies in the Pacific--Japan and Australia--demand that the Air Force explore a version suitable for sale.
Allowing some of America's closest allies the opportunity to field the most advanced fifth-generation fighter in the world would help ensure a stable balance of power in the region, hedging against uncertainty and staving off miscalculation. Aside from the noteworthy domestic industrial base benefits, permitting the sale of a modified F-22 would strengthen America's defense posture in the region and reassure Japan, Australia, and other U.S. allies that America's commitment to the Pacific remains strong.
Additional F/A-18s for the Navy
In April 2008, Rear Admiral Allen Myers projected a "most optimistic" shortfall of 125 strike fighters for the Navy, including 69 aircraft for the Navy and 56 for the Marine Corps. A Congressional Research Service report in April 2009 unveiled a potentially larger gap, citing a briefing to House Armed Service Committee staffers in which the Navy projected that its strike fighter shortfall could grow to 50 aircraft by next year, FY 2010, and 243 by FY 2018 (129 Navy and 114 Marine Corps fighters).
Recognizing the urgent need to alleviate the Navy's looming strike fighter gap, the conference committee should maintain funding for the purchase of nine additional F-18s above the President's budget request. The fighter gap is not shrinking and must be addressed through the procurement of additional aircraft as legacy fighters retire in ever greater numbers.
Maintaining C-17 Production
The U.S. Army is set to add another 23,000 soldiers beginning next year. As ground forces are added, lift requirements are very likely to also increase. The C-17 is the only remaining military wide-body aircraft still in production in the U.S. and provides an essential defense capability for the nation. The C-17, which can carry 169,000 pounds of equipment, including the Abrams tank and Apache helicopter, is ideal for operating from austere airfields, including dirt runways.
Even though the C-17 was singled out by President Obama during his campaign as a priority, his budget request would end production at 205 frames. Given the cost to restart the C-17 line after shutting it down (estimated at $5.7 billion), now is the wrong time to end the production of this core capability platform--particularly in light of recent decisions to grow the Army. More troops need more lift capability, so Congress should buy 10 additional C-17s in the 2010 defense appropriations bill.
Additional DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Destroyer
The U.S. Navy's major surface combatant fleet is busy, and its requirements are only growing. President Obama recently announced a shift in plans from a third site missile defense program to a program emphasizing sea-based missile defense, which will rely on Aegis destroyers.
Members also know that the Navy is not building nearly enough ships to reach a 313-ship fleet with 88 major surface combatants. Further, the Navy's shipbuilding requests are increasingly trending toward procuring fewer high-capability combatant ships.
Building two DDG-51s in 2010 is one positive step toward reversing this trend. Congress should defer to the Senate position and fund an additional DDG-51 above the President's budget request.
Added Funds for National Guard and Reserve Equipment
Over the past several years, Congress has been very supportive of funding for essential, modern Guard and Reserve equipment.
The Reserve Component relies heavily on the National Guard and Reserve equipment account to replenish worn-out stockpiles and alleviate domestic equipment shortfalls. The demands of overseas missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have badly depleted the Guard's domestic store of vehicles, weapons, and communications gear, leaving many units with only half of the equipment needed to meet requirements for homeland defense missions. In addition, the Guard has had to leave much of its equipment--like radios and trucks--overseas, so that it can be used by incoming units.
The additional $1.5 billion above the President's request for Guard and Reserve equipment will help restore readiness levels in the Reserve Component and more quickly alleviate the shortfall of equipment available for domestic emergencies.
Missile Defense Plus-Ups
As North Korea's and Iran's ballistic missile programs continue to mature, America must invest in a comprehensive, multi-layered missile defense system.
Instead of deemphasizing and restructuring the program for a more a constrained vision of what the future may hold, the U.S. needs to stay ahead of the technology curve. Yet the President's budget request would reduce the number of interceptors fielded in Alaska and California--technology capable of countering long-range missile strikes against the U.S--from 44 to 30.
The Senate provided additional funding above the President's request for ground-based missile defense and six additional Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptors. In light of the recent White House shift on third site, this funding should be maintained.
Congress should support upgraded versions of the sea-based and land-based SM-3 on a technology-driven timeline and accept the Senate version of the defense appropriation bill that contains a provision to increase funding for the development of future variants of the Standard Missile by $35 million.
Meeting the Needs of America's Military
Once the Senate passes its version of the 2010 defense appropriations bill, conference committee Members should defer to the Senate position in the provision of additional funds for many important programs. The Senate bill better meets increasing military requirements for a variety of missions and more robustly supports America's declining defense industrial base. Members would be wise to adopt the Senate's position on funding for programs such as additional F/A-18s, C-17s, DDG-51, missile defense programs, and Guard and Reserve equipment.
Mackenzie M. Eaglen is Research Fellow for National Security 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 Heritage Foundation.