WASHINGTON: Defense Budget Delays Could Hurt Drone Funding
Budget Battle Begins
The Obama administration is seeking a total of $553 billion to fund the Defense Department in Fiscal Year 2012 – which starts Oct. 1, 2011 – plus $118 billion more to pay for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Congress has yet to fully fund the department for the current fiscal year (which began last October).
And that poses a problem that could turn into “a crisis on our doorstep,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned a Senate committee hearing today (Feb. 17).
In the waning days of the last Congressional session – while lawmakers battled over tax cuts, gays in the military and a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia – they never did pass the Fiscal 2011 defense spending bill. Instead, lawmakers resorted to a tried and true stop-gap measure known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR. In effect, Congress voted to hold spending by federal agencies – including the Defense Department – at current levels. That is to say FY 2010 levels: about $526 billion for the Pentagon. The idea is to keep things running until they get around to passing a bill. The latest CR is scheduled to expire early next month.
Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee – just as he told their colleagues in the House of Representatives the day before – that the CR amounts to a $23 billion budget cut, compared to the $549 billion the department sought for 2011(not counting additional money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).
And continuing that reduced spending level much longer will hurt the military’s plans for buying equipment and weapons systems it needs, or developing new technologies for future needs, Gates told a hearing on the Fiscal 2012 request.
Complicating things even more, the new members of Congress, especially in the Republican-controlled House, are looking for more programs and department budgets to cut to reduce the deficit. Some have suggested cuts of $15 billion or more just in FY 2011.
“Let me be clear:,” Gates told the senators. “Operating under a year-long continuing resolution or substantially reduced funding – with the severe shortfalls that entails – would damage procurement and research programs causing delays, rising costs, no new program starts and serious disruptions in the production of some our most high demand assets, such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAVs).”
The Pentagon – and Gates – consider UAVs a top priority for Afghanistan and future conflicts. The FY 2012 budget request seeks $4.8 billion to acquire more unmanned aircraft – big and small.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that “ISR probably leads the pack” in capabilities needed for counter insurgency now and whatever kind of threats the U.S. Faces in the future. For the Air Force, the Pentagon is seeking $484.6 million for three additional Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawks, the high altitude reconaissance aircraft and $1.4 billion for 48 more missile-firing General Atomics MQ-9A Reapers. Another $659 million is being requested to supply the Army with 36 General Atomics MQ-1 Gray Eagles.
Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Aircraft, Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Washington, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: 2012 Defense Budget, Adm. Mike Mullen, aerospace, Afghanistan, Air Force, Army, Counter Insurgency, Defense, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, drones, Marine Corps, military aviation, Predator B, UAS, UAV, unmanned aircraft.