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Inside the Pentagon’s Chem-Bio Budget

by Robot_Economist on February 13, 2007

Jbpd The Defense Department’s chem-bio defense budget (CBDP) only accounts for less than one percent of what the U.S. military spends. But there’s still a lot to pore over. I thought that I would give an overview today, talk about procurement tomorrow, and talk about RDT&E on Thursday. (Go to the Defense Department Comptroller’s web site for fiscal year 2008 and access the procurement and RDT&E programs, to find the appropriate documents.)

Overall, the DoD CBDP will obligate $1.63 billion dollars in FY 2008 against 40-odd acquisition projects and other efforts. That’s a bit less than one percent of the DoD modernization budget for that year. Breaking it down, the CBDP will spend:

  • $609.6 million for science and technology (37.4 percent)
  • $381.9 million for advanced research and development (23.5 percent)
  • $543.8 million for procurement (33.4 percent)
  • $93.6 million for management functions (5.7 percent)

The services were a bit snippy about this budget because of the spending pattern — R&D spending is twice that of procurement, which means they don’t get as many toys. It’s a trend that continues through the 2008–2013 Program Objective Memorandum (POM), which is the Pentagon’s five year spending plan. Part of this is because of Rumsfeld’s direction to “assume risk in the short term” in order to invest more in out-year future tech. The other part is because most, if not all, of the CB defense projects (detection in particular) have slipped their fielding dates by several years (for several reasons, most involving poor management), forcing a move of funds into R&D (lest they be taken away).

Medical biological countermeasures is the obvious favorite in the program this year (see breakout of funds by area here). You can thank the DOD vaccine program (anthrax and smallpox vaccine buys) and the Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative (TMTI) for that. The vaccine program is spending about $48 million in 2008, while TMTI is spending $248 million in tech base and $69 million in advanced R&D. Both programs’ costs will continue to climb through 2013. The TMTI is the latest “good idea” from OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense], where DoD is basically sending a hell of a lot of money to industry to find “silver bullets” — a therapeutic that will address a broad range of BW threats, instead of a “single vaccine-single disease” approach.

This ambitious project is the latest Holy Grail for CBDP. In the late 1990s, the program promised free protective suits and vaccines for everyone. Then it was stand-off biological detection in 2000–2001. In 2002, OSD decided that every military base should have CB defense gear for antiterrorism, and threw a billion dollars at that problem. Now it’s the terrorist BW threat, combined with the worry of “genetically engineered” BW agents, that drives OSD’s “good idea” effort. Funny as in tragic. The installation protection effort started in 2004 (PM Guardian) got half its funds taken to kick-start TMTI, had to be reorganized, and is trying to get back on track. More on PM Guardian’s failures later.

We’re not going to see anything from TMTI for several years though. First, as a warning shot, Congress took $90 million of TMTI money from the DOD CBDP FY07 budget because there was no business plan other than “throw money at industry.” Now a plan has been put together, and they’re hiring lots of managers. But as with all medical research projects, and this one in particular, there’s not going to be a final product ready for FDA approval for six to ten years, if we’re lucky. But it’s really, really important! To OSD leadership, not the warfighter, mind you.

In general, the DOD CBDP priorities run like this — chem-bio detection, protective suits and masks, and medical biological countermeasures. The funds left over go to CB defense information systems, medical chemical countermeasures, collective protection systems and decontamination systems. This has been pretty much the same profile for both R&D and procurement since 1995, which is funny since both Gulf Wars (1991 and 2003) showed that our forces really have no effective CB defense information systems, collective protection, or decon capability for most of our operational units or fixed sites.

Test and evaluation efforts have recently been called out in a separate budget line. Nearly $67 million is going to projects to modernize test and evaluation capabilities at Dugway Proving Ground, Edgewood, Dahlgren, and other test sites. The aging test infrastructure was one reason why new CB defense equipment has been delayed. Hard to tell when — or if — this funding is going to get the projects back on schedule. Another $54 million in management funds goes to Dugway every year to pay for salaries and other T&E needs. Past CBDP management funds were kept down to 4 to 4.5 percent of the total program costs, but that’s bounced up to 5.8 percent (and rising) due to OSD deciding it’s going to spend more on studies and upgrading service laboratories. This management slice also doesn’t reflect the R&D funds spent at DTRA CB and the Joint Program Executive Office on managing projects directly.

More information can be found at the OSD office site in its annual report to Congress on CB defense.

UPDATE 02/14/07: Analysis from Dick Destiny.
Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair Generalist

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