April 06, 2009

Waiting on the budget...

...watching Old Man Gates on the Pentagon Channel now.

Live Updates:

1349: Snap! The VH-whatever presidential helicopter scrapped.

1350: USAF CSAR helicopter also scrapped.

1350: T-SAT also scrapped.

1351: No increase in ground-based interceptor missile defense. Overall, missile defense restructured.

1351: Airborne laser aircraft canceled. Whatever the hell that was.

1351: Okay, we'll buy the Navy two destroyers. (So many DDGs. My head hurts. I get them confused.)

1353: FCS "significantly restructured". Basically, it sounds as if they are breaking the FCS up. Gates does not sound like a big fan of the FCS (to say the very least) and says the vehicle component does not reflect "the lessons of counterinsurgency and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." Also, he's troubled by the contract and its fee structure. Gates is recommending we cancel the vehicle part of the FCS and will re-open bids for new Army bids.

1354: We're going to reduce the number of contractors in the DOD and hire 13,000 new full-time employees in the DOD over the next year alone.

1355: "This is a reform budget."

1356: "Stop your whinging, b*****s." (At least, that's what I heard.)

1357: Gates has now turned it over to Gen. Cartwright. Who is the heat.

1358: AP's Anne Gearan just asked if Sec. Gates feels like he is "walking into a buzzsaw." Gates tells Congress to get their act together and consider the national interest and stop whinging about specific weapons programs ("parochial interests").

1400: Some dude asks how we could do these budget cuts before the QDR. Gates responds, "Uh, the national defense strategy isn't a good enough analytical base for you? And what, you think Flournoy's QDR is going to cheer lead for the FCS?" Actually, Gates may not have said that last part.

1402: Why not more F-22s, some guy asks? (I must have missed the bit about the F-22.) Gates says we're sticking with 187 F-22s and no more. He also says the USAF is on board with this. (!!!)

1404: Gates says we do need a new presidential helicopter but that we're starting the process over from scratch.

1405: The Wall Street Journal's Yochi Dreazen (C '99), looking like a skinhead, asks about American jobs and how the defense budget will affect them. Gates responds by talking about the F-22 and how it will not affect the American workforce because it will continue to produce planes until 2011 and also how the joint strike fighter and ship-building will take care of the military industrial base.

1407: Gates says this is not an irregular warfare budget. He says about 10% of the budget is for irregular war (and gives the COIN community "a seat at the table" for the first time), 50% is for conventional forces, and 40% is dual-purpose.

1408: Cartwright is now talking missile defense. Which I confess I do not understand, so I hope he does.

1412: A more successful North Korean missile launch would not have affected the budget at all, Gates says. In his words, we have Hawaii and Alaska covered already, so folks in the 49th and 50th can chill out.

1416: No surprise, but people keep asking about North Korea. Cartwright obviously knows more about this subject than anyone else in the room and is poking fun at North Korean ineptitude.

1418: Now Gates is talking ship-building. And he just correctly pronounced "Pascagoula" in a sentence.

1421: Gates argues that North Korean and Iranian security will diminish and not improve with the acquisition of nuclear weapons. He sounds pissed, as in why can't you idiots realize you're going to start an arms race?

1425: Gates just said that what came out of the NATO conference -- an additional 3,000 combat troops plus trainers -- was a "pleasant surprise" given his pessimism going in.

Okay, I now have to go talk Pakistan with Nick Schmidle. Have fun watching the rest of the press conference.

UPDATE: One more thing. Here is the transcript of the prepared remarks. All the relevant information about the LCS, FCS, and F-22 is here.

1. To sustain U.S. air superiority, I am committed to building a fifth generation tactical fighter capability that can be produced in quantity at sustainable cost. Therefore, I will recommend increasing the buy of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the 14 aircraft bought in FY09 to 30 in FY10, with corresponding funding increases from $6.8 billion to $11.2 billion. We would plan to buy 513 F-35s over the five-year defense plan, and, ultimately, plan to buy 2,443. For naval aviation, we will buy 31 FA-18s in FY10.
2. We will retire 250 of the oldest Air Force tactical fighter aircraft in FY10.
3. We will end production of the F-22 fighter at 187 – representing 183 planes plus four recommended for inclusion in the FY 2009 supplemental.