Tuesday, September 14, 2010

F-35 program cut by ten planes.

A key Senate appropriations subcommittee approved cutting Joint Strike Fighter production from 42 planes to 32, and to build just one Littoral Combat Ship, not two, in 2011.

Overall, the subcommittee chopped $8.1 billion from the budget President Barack Obama requested for the U.S. Defense Department for 2011. The cuts come mainly in procurement and operations and maintenance accounts.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, subcommittee chairman, said the JSF cuts are warranted because the program is behind schedule. "I would inform my colleagues that the Defense Department has not yet awarded a contract to build 30 aircraft which the Congress funded nearly a year ago."

Similarly, with the Navy's LCS, Inouye said that "two ships funded in 2010 have not yet been contracted. Under the new plan, the Navy would seek to award four ships to a single contractor in the coming year. There is virtually no way that the winning contractor would be able to begin construction of four ships in 2011."

Funding for one ship in 2011 "is more than adequate," he said. And it saves $615 million.

Similar reductions were made to "dozens of programs where the requested funding level is above what is required to meet adjusted schedules," Inouye said.

The THAAD missile interceptor program, for example, was cut by $425 million because of production delays.

The defense appropriations subcommittee approved spending $680.9 billion on the military in fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

Obama requested $708.2 billion for the Defense Department and $18 billion for nuclear weapons managed by the Energy Department.

That Senate appropriations number appears to be much lower than the president's request in part because it does not include more than $14 billion that was requested for military construction. That is funded by Congress in a separate bill.

Of the $680.9 billion, $157.7 billion is to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama asked for $159.3 billion to pay for the wars.

Inouye said his subcommittee cut support for Iraq Security Forces in half - from $2 billion to $1 billion. The subcommittee also cut funding for the Commander's Emergency Response Program from $1.3 billion to $900 million.

Senators approved $167.3 billion in operations and maintenance spending; the Obama administration requested $200.3 billion.

And they set procurement spending at $104.8 billion - the 2010 level. The administration wanted $112.9 billion.

It wasn't all cuts, though. The subcommittee added funding for more search and rescue helicopters for the Air Force and Army, and added $121 million to buy 13 more Standard missile interceptors for the Navy's missile defense ships. The National Guard and service reserves received $500 million for buying new equipment.

Senators boosted spending on health care by $600 million to care for wounded troops and conduct medical research. Total spending on health care is $31.5 billion.

Inouye included a scolding for Pentagon finance managers. While some cuts were made because programs are far behind schedule, others, particularly those in operations and maintenance accounts, were made "because of lax budgeting practices by the military departments."

Inouye said the Defense Department "has not yet recovered from years of neglect in financial management." The Pentagon's effort to eliminate wasteful spending ought to start with "improving its budget preparation," he said.

Inouye called some of the cuts his subcommittee proposes "tough measures," but he said, "We believe in total the package is not only fair, but presents a carefully balanced set of recommendations" that meet U.S. security needs for 2011.

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