Thursday, February 12, 2009

New U.S. Defense Funding Figures Imminent AVIATION.WK

Aviation Week
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Top-line numbers for the U.S. military services in the forthcoming fiscal 2010 budget request could be issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget as soon as next week.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is meeting with the military service chiefs by Feb. 12 to discuss potential program cuts in preparation for final issuance of these service topline allocations.

"There is increased engagement with the services on the fiscal 2009 supplemental makeup, which is of intense interest to [the service chiefs] an is still being worked with OMB," says Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "The process forward on the fiscal 2010 program is still under development."

Sources close to the budget planning say Gates has been conducting a review of major Pentagon programs to determine possible cuts or terminations to better align the Defense Department's priorities with the goals of President Barack Obama (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 11).

A preliminary review of defense programs indicates possible targets include the Army's massive Future Combat System, the so-called Third Site for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense antimissile system in Europe, and the Navy's DDG-51 ship and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet programs, according to one defense industry analyst. Additionally, senior Pentagon leadership is eyeing possible cuts in the tri-service Joint Strike Fighter. Cuts in low-rate production or delays in the flight test plan would certainly drive up unit cost of the fighter and could prompt international partners to delay their orders of the Lockheed Martin jet.

During a press briefing Feb. 10, Gates told reporters that "this department faces difficult choices among competing priorities and programs," though he didn't outline what programs may be dealt cuts. Current discussions are focused on "strategic reshaping to make sure the budget reflects the need to balance current and future capabilities and the President's priorities," he said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Darryn James, says release dates for overall military department budgets have not yet been issued by OMB. However, they are expected by the end of February, according to defense officials.

The top line for FY '10 is expected to be around $524 billion, down from military provided projections last year that anticipated as much as $53 billion in additional funding for the Pentagon next fiscal year.

A formal rollout with detailed research, procurement and operations spending plans is likely the first week of April, officials say.

F/A-18E/F photo credit: U.S. Navy