Washington: Two of Washington’s better known taxpayer groups today offered a salad of Pentagon cuts, including recommendations to kill the entire F-35 program.
The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) — who occupy very different parts of the political spectrum — issued the recommendations to the congressional Super Committee to cut what they called “outdated or ineffective military programs.”
“While the need for a strong national defense is clear, it is equally clear that the Department of Defense (DoD) has a number of programs that do not advance those goals and instead waste vital resources,” the two groups said in their report. “Due to the delicate nature of decisions relating to national security, we have relied on authoritative recommendations from officials and independent experts from across the political spectrum to guide this report.”
Following these 12 recommendations to carefully reform or eliminate weapons programs and make other procedural improvements could save taxpayers as much as $428.8 billion over the next decade.
But some of their recommendations simply fly in the face of reason and experience. There is no way the Pentagon or Congress will cut the entire F-35 program to save $78 billion. It is the only new fighter program in the United States. We have very close allies who have committed large amounts of their national treasure to the program. And the F-16s and F/A-18 E/Fs just cannot do what the F-35 will. Having said that, the F-35B looks much more vulnerable than it should, because it is the most expensive and complex version of the plane. Flying those older aircraft would quickly grow prohibitively expensive in both lives and maintenance.
Their other major recommendation, to “implement acquisition reforms identified by the bipartisan defense acquisition panel” to save $135 billion over the next 10 years flies in the face of almost all experience with acquisition reform over the last decade. Both the Pentagon and Congress have created dozens of laws, rules and regulations to improve acquisition over the last decade. Few have had any measurable impact on improved weapons acquisition. If they had, would we all have suffered through the JSF, SBIRS, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, Future Combat System and on and on?
Here are the two groups Pentagon recommendations in full:
1) Implement Acquisition reforms identified by the bipartisan defense acquisition panel:
$135,000 – The Congressional Defense Acquisition Reform Panel developed comprehensive recommendations for improved contract development, performance incentives, and reforms to the Pentagon’s financial management system. Taken together, they could yield $135 billion in savings in the next ten years.
2) Adopt Gates efficiency recommendations
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has identified $100 billion in savings from trimming the defense work force (including the number of contractors), consolidating the Department’s IT infrastructure, and streamlining of several offices and agencies.
3) Cancel FÃ¢Â€Â35 Joint Strike Fighter and replace with more advanced, cheap and reliable alternatives
According to the Sustainable Defense Task Force, “the FÃ¢Â€Â35 Lightning may represent all that is wrong with our acquisition process.” Beyond the cost growth, it has performance and reliability issues and “would provide a capability that is not warranted considering emerging threats.” This option, derived from the Congressional Budget Office, would eliminate the FÃ¢Â€Â35 and replace it with lower cost planes like the FÃ¢Â€Â16 and F/AÃ¢Â€Â18.
4) Cancel Navy/Marines FÃ¢Â€Â35 Joint Strike Fighter
Congress can deem it unwise to eliminate the FÃ¢Â€Â35 entirely, this alternate item would cancel the Navy and Marines versions of the plane and replace them with F/A 18 Super Hornets, a relatively new plane compared to others the FÃ¢Â€Â35 was intended to replace.
5) Reduce spending for “Other Procurement”
The “Other Procurement” category includes spending on items like night vision goggles and radios. According to the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the military spent $400 billion more than their base budget for these items. Reducing and freezing this spending would save over $50 billion while still providing a 50 percent increase over “Other Procurement” levels in 2000.
6) Reduce VÃ¢Â€Â22 Osprey purchases
The VÃ¢Â€Â22 Osprey has suffered from innumerable schedule, management, cost, and production issues. Reducing future purchases and replacing the functionality with additional MHÃ¢Â€Â60 helicopters would save taxpayers $15 billion.
7) Terminate MEADS system
The Medium Extended Air Defense System is a joint venture between the U.S., Germany, and Italy to provide for a mobile air defense system. Neither Italy nor Germany plans to purchase the system when finished and the Patriot system can be expanded and improved to provide similar capabilities to MEADS.
8) Change depots pricing structure
Altering the pricing structure for repairs performed at the military’s maintenance depots would encourage greater usage of less expensive services at central facilities.
9) Cancel the CÃ¢Â€Â27J Joint Cargo Aircraft
10) End orders for obsolete spare parts and supplies for the Defense Logistics Agency
The Defense Logistics Agency, Army, Navy, and Air Force have substantial management problems that have resulted in ordering far too many spare parts (in some cases, more than 50 percent too many). If the agencies were to work through existing surpluses while reforming their ordering and tracking systems, taxpayers could save at least $37 billion in future spare parts purchases.
11) End orders for obsolete spare parts:
End orders for obsolete spare parts and supplies and supplies for the Army, Navy and the Air Force