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Senate Appropriators Kill JLTV, Pull $695M From F-35

Posted by Colin Clark on

Capitol Hill: The Senate’s top defense appropriators have killed the Army and Marines Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program and frozen F-35 production levels until the next budget year.

Those were among the most visible of $26 billion in additional cuts to the fiscal 2012 budget the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee made to comply with the Budget Reduction Act. They were among 600 line item reductions the subcommittee made, according to Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, who is also chairman of the full committee. “Most of these reductions are made as a result of program terminations, schedule delays, program changes since submission of the budget last February, inadequate justification, unaffordable future year costs, or corrections to poor fiscal discipline,” the powerful senator said in his quiet voice.

Top of the list was the increasingly beleaguered Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Inouye said the committee cut it “due to excessive cost growth and constantly changing requirements.” The rebuilding of the Humvee fleet should take care of most of the military’s need for tactical mobility.

A source familiar with the program said the JLTV kill “made sense. With Humvee recap ramping up it is a rather obvious area of redundancy. And, requirements are indeed in major flux,” the source said. And the Marines had made it very clear that they were likely to drop out of the program, as they were worried about its costs and weight.

Cuts to military operation and maintenance funding were possible because of “lax budgeting practices by the Military Departments,” Inouye said. How lax were they? The committee cut $4 billion in Army O and M money in fiscal 2011 and another $2 billion that the Army admitted to the committee “that it cannot spend.”

The committee and the Pentagon worked together closely to identify cuts and DoD handed over $10 billion in suggested cuts. Of that, Inouye said $5 billion of funds are due “to troop reductions in Afghanistan that the President announced after the budget was submitted; $1.6 billion is cut based on an overstated requirement for Afghanistan Security Forces which was identified to the Committee by the lead Commander in Afghanistan for training; $135 million is reduced from the tanker replacement program since the Air Force informed us that they could not spend these funds next year; and over $1.5 billion is rescinded in prior year funds that the Department identified to the Committee in June.”

But the committee didn’t just cut. The senior senator said his panel approved an additional $250 million for MRAP improvements, $2.4 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization; $500 million for National Guard and Reserve Equipment; and $240 million for Abrams tank upgrades.

On top of that, they boosted spending “in critical technology areas such as cyber security, nanotechnology, and space situational awareness.”

In taking a whack at the JSF program, Inouye was at pains to make clear that the committee wasn’t backing away from the biggest single program in U.S. history. “We continue to strongly support this program and believe that the F-35 is showing progress since it was restructured last year. However, excessive concurrency in development and production still exists. The test program is only 10 percent complete, yet the request continues to ramp up production of aircraft in fiscal years 2012 and 2013,” he said. (Note: Inouye said during the hearing that the JSF cut was $1.2 billion. Later in the day the SAC-D staff revised the chairman’s remarks to have him saying $695 million. How nice to be able to revise one’s words officially….)

Finally, the committee did not include money for an additional Mobile Landing Platform ship. But it wasn’t cut with prejudice. “We believe that this remains an important requirement and expect the Navy to fund the third ship in the fiscal year 2013 request,” he said.

For those who hate earmarks, there was good news. The new bill does not include any.

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