New Capabilities Play Vital Role in Budget Recommendations
New Capabilities Play Vital
Role in Budget Recommendations, Gates Says
By Jim Garamone,
Washington D.C. -- April 7, 2009 – (AFPS) New
capabilities, which are playing a greater role in America's defense, are an
integral part of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ recommendations for the
fiscal 2010 budget request.
Gates discussed some of these capabilities and his budget
recommendations at a Pentagon roundtable this afternoon also attended by Marine
Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
To start, the secretary is recommending the Air Force retire
250 of its oldest aircraft next year and halt production of the F-22 Raptor at
Part of the reasoning behind this is that the Predator and
Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles are coming on line. These UAVs are starting to
supplant some of the mission space that manned aircraft once dominated.
“Heretofore, they were not put into the missions that the
F-18, F-16, F-15 occupied,” Cartwright said. “Now you start to bring that
capability on, especially with the Reaper.”
The Reaper is like a Predator UAV on steroids. The aircraft
can carry up to 1.5 tons of weapons and stay aloft for hours.
“Given that the conflicts that we are in or likely to be in
in the next couple of years, are conflicts where being on station for extended
periods of time and not carrying maximum loads every sortie -- those platforms
really do give you a qualitative edge,” the general said.
The secretary called the UAVs new pieces of the defense
equations. “These are not just the Predators doing strikes; it is long distances
and long dwells,” he said. “An F-16 has a range of about 500 miles. The Reaper
has a range of about 3,000 miles. This is going to be an increasing part of the
Air Force arsenal.”
On the F-22 Raptor, the secretary decided to halt the build
at 187 -- a number the Air Force and combatant commanders agree on, Gates said.
The emphasis will go to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He said he does not see a
risk in the decision.
“The intelligence I’ve gotten is the first [initial operating
capability] for anything like a fifth generation fighter in Russia is 2016,”
Gates said. “In China it’s about 2020.”
The Army’s Future Combat System was the last and toughest
decision he made, Gates said. There is no argument that the Army needs new
“At the end of the day, the principal concern I had was that
a program first designed nine years ago had not fully integrated the lessons of
Iraq and Afghanistan into the vehicle part,” he said.
The FCS infantry fighting vehicle has a flat bottom and is 18
inches off the ground. The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, called an
MRAP, -- which has arguably saved many lives -- has a V-shaped hull and is feet
above the roadbed.
“We needed to stop, take a deep breath and look at this thing
freshly with an eye toward what we had learned,” Gates said.
Cartwright said commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan have three
sets of vehicles at their disposal -- Humvees, Bradleys and MRAPs. “The question
is, can one vehicle really cover that span?” the general said.
“I didn’t think the program had integrated the operational
experience that we have had in Iraq and Afghanistan where the commander has a
menu of vehicles he can draw on in any given unit depending on what the mission
is,” Gates said.
Gates’ decisions are meant to fill the gaps between
capabilities. He said there are enemies who field a terrorist with an AK-47
assault rifle, but he is backed by a ballistic missile.
“One example is Hezbollah,” Gates said. “Hezbollah has more
missiles and rockets than most countries and some pretty sophisticated equipment
to go with it. And yet, they also have a basic terrorist and irregular warfare
And in Iraq, low-tech terrorists plant sophisticated
explosive penetrating devices.
The secretary’s recommendations recognize the increasing
lethality of all portions of the combat spectrum. “It’s not so much the specific
capabilities of this budget, but the recognition that the irregular side of this
threat has to be in the base budget along with the programs to deal with the
more modern kinds of systems which has been in the budget forever,” Gates said.
“I think there has been a lot of discussion between the nexus
between an extremist organization and weapons of mass destruction, and the
proliferation of that WMD in ways that, in the past, only sophisticated nation
states could hope to field these kind of weapons,” Cartwright said. “That time
is coming to an end.
“What we acknowledge here is that the entire span of military
operations is extremely lethal,” he continued.
Gates said any procurement change has to begin with a
professional acquisition cadre in the services and at the defense level. He has
recommended hiring more government employees to oversee contractors, because
“oversight of the acquisition process is inherently governmental,” he said.
Gates said he believes his recommendations have a good chance
at passage. “I am an optimist,” he said.
The secretary said there is support for acquisition reform on
the Hill and the package of changes needs to be seen as a whole rather than as
“I think we will have a productive dialogue of the next
couple of months, and I’m optimistic,” he said.
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