Late last December, in a move that spawned headlines around the world, the Pentagon handed down $30 billion in budget cuts to a wide range of programs, including some of the military's biggest -- the F/A-22 Raptor among them.Some sage Pentagon watchers noted at the time that the cuts weren't likely to stick, and, indeed, nine months later some have not. The C-130J cargo plane was allegedly terminated, but that kill didn't last three months. And the Joint Common Missile was quashed in the December budget decision but looks almost certain to live, thanks to Congress.Many of those cuts weren't slated to come due for many years, either. But as the Pentagon wraps up its Quadrennial Defense Review and prepares its new defense budget, both of which are due to Congress early next year, whispers about real, deep and lasting cuts are growing more audible.Ken Krieg, the new Pentagon acquisition chief, gave a speech last month that suggested those whispers might soon lead to screams.As my colleague Jason Sherman reported, Krieg "served notice to the defense industry that cuts to major programs are coming as the Pentagon tries to find money to invest in new capabilities deemed necessary for a wider range of challenges the military must be prepared to handle."
"Consider how you and your organizations will react to the choices that we have to make in the future, Krieg said Sept. 21 at a National Defense Industry Association luncheon.He invoked President Dwight Eisenhowers warnings of a military-industrial complex and cited four examples of efforts to terminate weapons programs -- two of which, he said, were thwarted by that military-industrial complex.Krieg's appeal to industry makes sense -- he needs the defense companies to accede to the cuts to help the Pentagon make the case for program kills in the service of a broader defense agenda. Congress doesn't often agree to kill anything of size -- just ask Dick Cheney. (One of those four programs mentioned by Krieg was the V-22, just approved for production more than 15 years after Cheney killed it.)Whether any proposed cuts will be sustained, of course, is anyone's guess. Hurricane Katrina and other budget pressures may make cuts inevitable, but there's no guarantee the Pentagon's choices -- the Joint Strike Fighter? -- won't be propped up or stretched out while other efforts with less support in Congress are scratched.THERE'S MORE: Expect to see more stories like this one in the coming weeks as Quadrennial Defense Review decisions shake out and the 2007 budget shapes up.-- Posted by Dan Dupont