Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Did Roberts Gates Really Just Kill the F-22?

Well, I was expecting Naval/Air Force assets to be reduced in the wake of Gates' announcement that he wants to focus on asymmetrical threads. But I wasn't expecting him to kill the F-22. It takes an Act of God to stop something like that at this stage.

It ain't the only thing getting cut; he's getting rid of the C-17 and a lot of the crazy future weapons stuff as well.

And apparently there's a good reason he's not terribly happy with things as they stand: he's "alienated" from military procurement.

In calling yesterday for "a dramatic change in the way we acquire military equipment," Gates showed his slow but palpable alienation from the so-called iron triangle of defense contractors, lawmakers and military service executives that has long promoted building the best weapons systems, no matter what the price. In the future, he said, weapons should be engineered to counter "the actual and prospective capabilities of known future adversaries," not what a potential adversary might create with "unlimited time and resources."

Gates has signaled his frustrations with the broken and "rigid" purchasing system for months, and in a January article in Foreign Affairs magazine, he noted that the pursuit of perfect solutions combined with a lack of flexibility and innovation had made it "necessary to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities needed to protect U.S. troops and fight ongoing wars."

But Gates sees this year as a rare opportunity to pursue politically controversial ideas, one of his top aides said, largely because of two factors. First, President Obama's repeated claim that procurement reforms can increase efficiency and save expenses across the government will provide "top cover" for Gates in his head-butting with a group of service chiefs that proposed last year to alleviate their woes by adding tens of billions of dollars to the budget instead of making hard choices or undertaking major reforms.

Second, Gates feels the nation's woeful economic status will give him added leverage in beating back attempts on Capitol Hill to continue financing weapons that troops don't need or want. "It is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to overinsure against a remote or diminishing risk, or in effect to run up the score" is a dollar that might otherwise be spent on troops or winning the wars we are in, Gates said yesterday.
Translation: stop worrying about China, it's the security of failing or rogue states that is the issue here.

I can't say I didn't see this coming, and having a Defense Secretary take on the crazy American procurement machine is a welcome change. But the pushback is going to be tremendous, and probably all on the Dems. Being a Dem in a defense-industry town ain't gonna be easy.

Edit: He's also shifting away from contractors.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Pentagon budget includes a shift to pull contracted work in house, especially in the area of weapons acquisitions.

Contracted defense work has grown to 39 percent of the Pentagon's workforce, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Gates, however, said he is aiming to reduce that to 26 percent, approximately where it was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

To cover work now under contract, the Pentagon would hire up to 39,000 full-time civil servants in the next five years, beginning with a hiring of 13,000 this year.

To companies that lean on the Pentagon for much of their work include CACI and SAIC, which do many administrative tasks, the move is earth-shattering, defense consultant Loren Thomson told the Post.

"The reduction of nearly one-third of the contractor workforce at the Pentagon is going to be a mortal blow to companies that have built their businesses through outsourcing," Thomson said.
Cry me a river.

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