So Now What?

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Here's Av Week's impression of where Obama will go with defense:

Obama promises to put "people first" in the military and bring major combat operations in Iraq to a close over the next few years. He wants to boost the National Guard and reserves, from personnel to equipment, and emphasize diplomatic efforts to promulgate U.S. interests abroad. But most importantly to the U.S. aerospace and defense industry - as well the foreign-based firms - Obama openly declares his desire to subdue the so-called military industrial complex that has long irked liberal advocates.

An Obama administration will "place our troops before CEOs, reining in military outsourcing and restoring honesty, openness, and economic good sense to our defense contracting and budgeting processes," according to a recently updated campaign Web site position.

"Negative trends in recruitment and retention threaten the strength of the all-volunteer force," the Obama campaign says. "In allowing this to occur, President Bush is repeating mistakes made at the end of the Vietnam War that 'hollowed out' our force. An Obama administration will rebuild a military that has been pushed to the breaking point."

Combined, the platform of Obama and running mate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) paints a person-over-program picture, although the Democrats assert their willingness to develop, buy and equip the U.S. military with the best weapons and technology. But even there, Obama will favor admittedly blander programs that make for the backbone of global operations rather than high-profile fighters and attack aircraft.

"We must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces," the Democratic candidate says.

"We must adapt and make tradeoffs among systems originally designed for the Cold War and those required for current and future challenges. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft--which may not be glamorous to politicians, but are the backbone of our future ability to extend global power," the Obama camp says.

Nevertheless, rather than wholesale upheaval, changes to the Pentagon's budget, force structure and military capabilities are likely to come in measured amounts as the U.S. faces wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as continuing counter-terrorism efforts around the world and at home. As Aviation Week reported in late June, the next president will face mounting economic and budgetary pressures that will weigh on their defense policies as much or more than just the post-9-11 concerns of the Bush administration.

-- Christian

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