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.In 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.