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Taxpayer Groups Urge Cuts of $600 Billion; Whack JSF, Next-Gen Bomber

Posted by Colin Clark on

Washington: Two respected taxpayer groups are calling for more than half-a-trillion in defense cuts.

The Project for Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense released a plan today targeting some $586 billion in what they call “wasteful defense and contractor spending over the next 10 years.” The two groups say the weapons systems they’ve targeted include programs “that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t need or want.”

The two groups argue that “the U.S. faces no existential threats” today as it did during the Cold War and is pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, they say, nuclear weapons spending “is growing by leaps and bounds. And the federal government’s reliance on contractors, most of whom work on national security-related work and who usually cost significantly more than federal workers do to do the same tasks, is also driving budgets through the roof.”

The basic outline of their cuts is pretty simple. They would save:

  • $300 billion by reducing service contracts by 15 percent
  • $72 billion by reducing non-DoD service contracts by 15 percent
  • $60 billion through reforms to the DoD’s TRICARE health care system
  • $30 billion by withdrawing 20,000 troops from Europe
  • $56 billion by scrapping two versions of the F-35 and killing future production of the V-22.

But they also offer a detailed list of programs they want to cut or trim:

  1. Replace the B and C models of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with FA-18 E/Fs for savings of an estimated $43.64 billion;
  2. Cancel one version of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for a savings of at least $160 million.
  3. Drop $272 million that the House Armed Services Committee added to keep the M1 tank production line hot;
  4. “Defer development” of the next-generation bomber for savings of at least $3.7 billion;
  5. Whack a carrier and an air wing for savings of something like $7 billion;
  6. “Freeze” development of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system for savings of $8 billion;
  7. Halt development of “over-budget military space programs” for savings of $11.3 billion.
  8. Don’t build the next tranche of the Marines’ V-22 Osprey and save some $12 billion.

The most controversial of the program decisions would be canceling the F-35 B and C models.
POGO and TCS argue that the F-18s they would replace the F-35 with boast “capabilities that rival the F-35.” That is a statement Boeing might well agree with since they want to sell more F/A-18-E/Fs to current F-35 partners but few military officials would.

Then the taxpayer groups make an avoidable goof, saying that “the B model is currently grounded due to underperformance and cost overruns.” Umm. Not so. They were grounded but have been back in the air for a while. In fact, at least one F-35B flew yesterday, according to the program office.

Then they argue that the F-35 will be more much expensive to maintain than the F-18 and buying the Super Hornets would save another $5.64 billion. Those estimates are based on analysis that the F-35 would be maintained by the same number of people in basically the same fashion as was the F-16. That is highly unlikely unless the government refuses to use the predictive software built into the plane designed to ensure parts replacement and thus avoid catastrophic failures. It also would mean the services would refuse to take advantage of what industry — and some military — sources say is its more streamlined maintenance.

Finally, POGO and Taxpayers for Common Sense urge changes to the “culture of procurement, budgeting, and management” which they say would “yield billions in additional savings and deliver better and more weapons for less money and less time.”

This latest stab at a plan for sustainable and sound defense cuts comes after the Senate Gang of Six released on yesterday. Before that, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, the Stimson Center, the Domenici-Rivlin task force and the Center for American Progress all offered their own plans for savings of up $1.4 trillion in defense savings.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have said recently they recognize the need for cuts but they have urged caution in making deep cuts to Pentagon spending.

What do you think?