Troops Cut, Weapons Safe?

A few weeks back, it looked like the Pentagon really might go after some of its biggest, fattest weapons programs with an axe. Now, that’s looking less likely.
inside_engine.jpgIn fact, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Air Force is “looking to secure much of its savings by cutting active and reserve forces, instead of slashing weapons purchases.”

To stay within its expected budget, the Air Force is planning to cut at least 30,000, and perhaps as many as 40,000, uniformed personnel, civilians and contractor-support staff through fiscal 2011, military officials said…
The Army, which is bearing more of the burden of the war in Iraq, doesn’t envision similar personnel cuts, but is exploring a modest slowdown in its plans for troop growth as it grapples with a recruiting shortfall… The Army’s current plan is to expand to 43 combat brigades from 33 by the end of 2007. The service, however, is considering either postponing or forgoing the addition of one of those 5,000-soldier brigades next year. It also could cut as many as three National Guard brigades from a planned force of 34 combat brigades, said an Army official involved in preparing the budget…
The shift is good news for the nation’s major defense contractors, which appear to have dodged major cutbacks in big-ticket weapons purchases… two of the costliest future weapons systems in Mr. England’s sights, the Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by Lockheed and the Navy’s DDX destroyer made by Northrop and General Dynamics Corp., have escaped the guillotine in this budget cycle. The Army’s marquee modernization program, called Future Combat Systems and led by Boeing, also appears set to be spared from another major restructuring.
A system of missile-warning satellites being built by Lockheed, years late and at a cost of more than three times as much as its initial $3 billion budget, once again is likely to survive largely intact, according to Air Force and industry officials familiar with the details. The Air Force appears ready to tell Congress that it believes management shortcomings have been corrected, the technology is headed down the right path and there isn’t any viable alternative to pushing ahead with development.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Afternoon Folks,
    For a follow up see today’s WSJ, front page story “Pentagon Weights Personal Cuts to Pay for Weapons”, by Jonathan Karp, Andy Pasztor and Greg Jaffe. When the WSJ is concerned somone had better be listening.
    The last I saw al Qaeda didn’t have an Air Force or a Navy. Will someone please tell the DoD that the “Cold War” is over and will the last soldier to leave please turn out the lights.
    ALLONS,
    Byron Skinner

  • rutty

    Byron, I believe that is the exact story to which this post refers. Something else in the journal today the might be of interst thought is on of the editorials concerning Mssr. England’s appointment/confirmation and a certain senator doing her darndest to see that the ship yards in her state dont loose any business.

  • Dfens

    Hmm, who said, “face it, procurement is where all the power is”? Oh yes, that was me (http://www.defensetech.org/archives/001922_comments.html). Being right about things that are so screwed up is such a bore.

  • sglover

    As long as the coffers of Lockheed, General Dynamics, Northrop, Boeing, Raytheon, etc. are fat and getting fatter, the War on Terror’s going exactly as intended.

  • Dfens

    So what are you, some kind of communist? Lockmart, Boeing, NG, they don’t make the rules. Well, ok, they strongly influence the rules, but they don’t make them. It’s the Executive branch of the US government who does that.
    If these defense contractors are stringing out development to maximize profit, why not change the rules so they build a better product to maximize profit? All the DoD would have to do is change the type of contract they issue from one that pays for development to one that only pays profit to the company that provides the best product. No act of Congress involved. Nothing for the Judicial branch to do. Just a simple act by the DoD. A simple change in policy.
    If the DoD stopped paying for development, they wouldn’t require hundreds of thousands of people to watch over these greedy contractors any more. Why watch over them when they are spending their own money to develop the products? When the products come in, you have your fighting guys get familiar with it, try it out, if they like it, buy it. If not, tell them to stick it. Ah, those were the days… Those were the days when our military hardware was the cream. It was the best of the best for the best of the best.
    Or we could go on like we are now, spending more, getting less, taking longer. The principles of capitalism are going to work either way. Personally I’d rather have them work for me than against. I’m kind of old fashioned that way.

  • rutty

    I, too, was floored to learn that fixed-price contracts were not how things are done.

  • Dfens

    The whole “firm fixed” vs. “cost plus” contract arguement is really a thing of the past. Back in the late ’70s through mid ’80s the contractors were getting reimbursed for their development costs. At that time it became popular to push the development funds as far as possible, but mostly the motivation was to get a good useful product from that funding. There was no profit from those funds. Ever since the contractors started getting paid profit for development – that was the beginning of the mess we’re in now. Now the companies try to drag out development as long as possible because they make a profit off of screwing up. They come up with one inane problem after another because it allows them to maximize profit.
    Understand, development is the period where they were creating drawings, building prototypes, writing software, doing testing (my apologies if you already understand this, not everyone does). It used to be you only made profit on selling an operating product. Now that companies make profit from development, there is both incentive to drag out that phase of the work, and incentive to NOT BUILD a product. It has turned my job into white collar welfare, and that’s not what I went to engineering school for.

  • Dfens

    Why should your company get paid for you to do this or any task? I’m sure what you did was to support some product. Your company should make a profit on a good product just like every other business in this country should. What is so special about aerospace that we should get paid for our time and that our company should make a profit on every minute we spend occupying a chair? We should build products. If they are better than those built by our competitors, then the government should buy them from us for a reasonable amount of money. If they aren’t any good, they should occupy space in a garbage dump and not put a brave soldier’s life in danger.
    That’s not what happens now. Now the more stupid the idea, and the harder it is to make work, or often the harder we make the process of getting it to work, the more money we get paid and the more profit the company makes. If it ends up being a piece of junk, who cares? Cancel the program, or worse still put some kid’s life in danger using the garbage. We’ll bid on the next one and make a profit screwing the taxpayer on that one too. Does anyone else besides me see a problem with this?