WASHINGTON: “To counter our near-peer adversaries” — read Russia and China — US Pacific Command wants $530 million of unfunded priorities that didn’t fit in the 2018 budget request, from better bases to more torpedoes. The top item: $49 million more for “multi-domain battle exercises,” wargames testing a new Army-led concept for future warfare against high-tech adversaries that Navy-dominated PACOM, led by Adm. Harry Harris, has been quick to embrace.
Counting the multi-domain money, the PACOM unfunded priorities list includes
- $160 million for exercises and training, including the $49 million for multi-domain battle specifically, $106 million for widely applicable Joint Training Capability program, and $5 million for “no-notice agile logistics exercises,” presumably to figure out how best to supply US forces in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations.
- $193 million for improvements at various facilities, from the Royal Australian Air Force base in Tindal to Micronesia, the Marianas, and Japan.
- $47 million for Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, $34 million of that for the BICES-X intelligence network and $13 million for sensors — either “low-cost portable surveillance systems” or a “stateside affordable radar system” (we don’t know how a portable system and a static stateside system could be interchangeable, either).
- $131 million for additional MK-48 heavy torpedoes for US submarines. This is the last item on the list and the only weapon system.
While the PACOM list isn’t numbered and doesn’t officially reflect a priority order, it’s probably no coincidence that the Multi-Domain money is at the top and torpedoes at the bottom.
It’s worth noting that combatant commands, especially ones with a geographically defined area of responsibility like PACOM, function very differently from the armed services and submit very different unfunded requirements lists. (Compare the Navy’s here). The services drive most of the budget because they have the Title X responsibility to “organize, train, and equip” the armed forces, which includes everything from developing weapons to paying recruits. Their perspective can be parochial in terms of inter-service rivalries, but their cradle-to-grave responsibilities — from R&D to fielding to sustainment and ultimately disposal — also force them to take a long view. The combatant commands, by contrast, have to get units from different services working together every day, so their mindset is naturally more joint, but they are also naturally focused on immediate problems, not long-term programs.
Indeed, in PACOM’s unfunded requirements letter, Adm. Harris specifically touts service procurement programs that “are crucial to my Fight Tonight mission” (his capitals, not ours):
- “procurement of precision munitions… i.e., MK-48 (torpedoes), AIM-9X (anti-aircraft), AIM-120D (also anti-aircraft), and SM-6 (multi-purpose: anti-aircraft, missile defense, & anti-ship)”;
- “sustaining long range anti-ship missile procurement” after years of emphasizing land attack and missile defense at the expense of offense;
- “upgrading 4th generation fighters” — e.g. Navy F-18s — “with fifth-generation capabilities, to include investing in Infra-Red Search and Track” (IRST), as offered by Boeing;
- “procuring sufficient 5th generation aircraft,” i.e. F-35s (no other 5th gen plane is in production);
- “procuring Virginia class submarines and enhancing other undersea capabilities,” probably meaning underwater sensors and drones;
- “resourcing advanced intelligence. surveillance, and reconnaissance, and command and control systems…i.e., E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (carrier-based recon) and P-8 Poseidon (land-based)”;
- “investing in survivable and un-exploitable long-range communications capacity,” presumably including commercial satellites.
These items don’t come with dollar figures because they’re not in PACOM’s budget — but PACOM still wants someone to buy them.