Don't be fooled by the dollar signs. Pentagon poobahs may say they're trimming $30 billion dollars from their budget over the next six years. But, chances are, those program cuts will be grown back, once Congress has its say and bureaucratic inertia creeps in.Late last week, while most of us were preparing our hangover remedies, Inside Defense did some damn fine reporting, digging up deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz's order to start paring back new weapons projects.040322-F-0000S-009.jpgOne of the programs hardest hit: the C-130J cargo plane -- a faster, higher-flying, longer-lasting version of the aircraft currently shuttling supplies to Iraq. $5 billion is supposed to be taken out of the program, as the Air Force's purchase of the plane is terminated, and the Marine Corps' buys are ended early. But, in the end, that reduction will "likely [be] reversed on Capitol Hill," according to one Congressional source."This is a favorite cut that Congress always fixes," adds director John Pike.Similarly, Wolfowitz' proposal to roll back the $952 million purchase of a San Antonio-class amphibious ship in 2008 likely won't happen, either. The LPD-17 -- the Marines' answer to an aircraft carrier, basically -- has frequently gotten more money from the Congress than the Pentagon originally asked for. And that'll probably happen again, Pike thinks. "They will just put the three units that are proposed for elimination back in the budget when the time arrives."In fact, of the $30 billion in proposed cuts, only $5.9 billion will come in the next fiscal year, Inside Defense notes. That's less than the $10 billion in savings the White House reportedly requested -- and, as Slate's Fred Kaplan explains, even those modest measures won't really kick in for years to come. The major reductions only begin to take hold in fiscal year 2009. By then, the Bush administration will be just about over. And there will have been plenty of time to restore the money that was allegedly taken out.THERE'S MORE: "Vice Adm. (ret.) Arthur Cebrowski, head of the Pentagon's Office of Transformation, has already suggested to Rumsfeld that he reject OMB's [the White House's Office of Management and Budget's] call for reduction on the grounds that it will cripple the military's plan to become smaller, but harder hitting, through the introduction of new technology," Aviation Week says. "The military hopes to create a backlash from Rumsfeld, a ploy that may already have succeeded with Cebrowski who is advising the Defense secretary 'to just say no.'"AND MORE: The Pentagon is proposing a bunch of other big cuts $5 billion from the hapless missile defense program, $1.2 billion from the crash-prone V-22 Osprey rotorcraft, $5.3 billion from the Virginia-class submarine effort. But the rollback that's mostly likely to stick might be the one to the beleaguered F/A-22 jet.030919-F-0000W-002.jpgThe $40 billion stealth fighter program has been assailed for years as a Cold War relic. And one of the planes exploded during takeoff late last month.The Air Force originally planned to buy 339 of the so-called "Raptors." But that number shrank to 277, as the cost-per-plane swelled. Now, the Pentagon is calling for a further cut, to 180 jets a savings of $10.5 billion. And it may not be the final trim. "The F/A-22 buy could eventually drop to as few as 100 aircraft," Aviation Week reports.With so few planes, the Raptor's mission could change dramatically. Originally, the jet was viewed as a way to provide American forces with everyday control of the skies. But if there are only 100 or so Raptors in service, "that would make the F-22 more of a silver bullet, kick-down-the-door force rather than our everyday air superiority fighter," a Congressional source says.AND MORE: Generals, politicians, and pundits across the political spectrum have been calling for a bigger Army, with more troops. But Phil Carter, to put it mildly, isn't convinced.

I suppose, in a Pentagon bureaucrat's Utopia where there were unlimited amounts of money to spend on manpower, machines and bureaucracy, that would be great. But here in the real world, such proposals may not be prudent. Indeed, they may be quite daft, given our real resource constraints...It's not as easy as simply saying that we should cut expensive weapons systems. Just like weapons systems, soldiers cost money too. Moreover, you don't just pay for the soldier and his personal equipment you pay for his family, their housing, their medical care, their leadership, their training base, their combat equipment (i.e. trucks and tanks), their training, et cetera. When you consider an increase of this magnitude to the permanent end-strength of the military, you've got to take the long view of how much these increases will cost. And, perhaps more importantly, you must consider quality in addition to quantity you can't dilute the quality of today's force just to create more force structure. If we fall into that trap, we will have regressed back to the WWI/WWII attrition-based model of warfare.
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