Thoughts on the 2010 Top Line

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Well, Pentagon chief Robert Gates finally unveiled the 2010 top line budget with a few nips and tucks here, a smidgen of add ons there, but at the end of the day, entirely predictable and verging on DOA on Capitol Hill.

I loved his line "it is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk or, in effect, to run up the score in a capability where the United States is already dominant is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are under invested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take."

I agree with this wholeheartedly, but I will say, it's dangerous to not take seriously prospective threats and deny potential adversaries a "fair fight" -- even if it's a really unfair fight.2010 SecDef Budget Statement 2010 SecDef Budget Statement Christian Lowe Public statement from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the 2010 Pentagon budget. Publish at Scribd or explore others: Presentations & Spre security budget

During the Q&A session, Gates deep sixed HAC-D Chairman John Murtha's idea of a split tanker buy, setting up a big fight on Capitol Hill and he stopped the F-22 buy at 187, sure to draw the ire of powerful lawmakers from Georgia and other Raptor states.

Lawmakers had a hard time applauding Gates' plan, with both Murtha and Skelton saying basically "it's a nice first step, Mr. Secretary, but we're the ones who appropriate here.

I think the CSAR-X decision makes sense, but I worry that it will severely delay a new bird for rescuers. Gates said he wanted a joint solution, but in the end, CSAR is usually joint, even if it resides in the Air Force.

I'm cool with the missile defense numbers -- I like ABL as a technology demonstrator and a test bed for spinoffs and I can see where he's coming from on FCS...I just worry that as the Army is faced with the decision to buy new versions of the Bradley and M1 and other armored vehicles in the future, it will wind up being more expensive than if it were part of a single program -- even one as troubled at FCS is now.

And he couldn't help taking a swipe at the Army on it either:

We will retain and accelerate the initial increment of the program to spin out technology enhancements to all combat brigades. However, I have concluded that there are significant unanswered questions concerning the FCS vehicle design strategy. I am also concerned that, despite some adjustments, the FCS vehicles where lower weight, higher fuel efficiency, and greater informational awareness are expected to compensate for less armor do not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I've always said that FCS makes for a great R&D program that can spin off into the current force and press the technological limits to better inform decisions when it's time to build replacement vehicles, so as long as this happens, I think we'll be in good shape. But you just wait until Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) gets his hands on the authorization bill and fights for his prized NLOS-C system. Gates' reform attempt could face death by 1,000 cuts.

I'm not as smart on the DDG-1000 vs. DDG-51 vs. LCS vs. whatever the heck naval ship system...smarter people on this site can try and help me understand the best way to go on that one. Seems to me, though, that our Navy might be a tad small and a tad vulnerable and superiority of the seas has stood powerful nations in better stead than superiority of the air. But I'm agnostic.

It also surprises me he canned the "Presidential Helo" program, though you gotta bet the Sikorsky folks in Connecticut are jumping for joy on that one.

We'll have a bunch more coverage here and at DoD Buzz on this as the service-specific budgets roll out and the R-1s and P-1s become available. We'll do a document dump here when they do and continue with interviews and analysis. Our boy Winslow Wheeler says it's more of the same:

For the defense Departments broken acquisition system, the Secretarys endorsement of the Levin McCain procurement reform bill (now watered down at the Defense Departments urging) means that business as usual is very alive and well. There will be some new bottles for some very old wine, but the bitterness of the taste will still be around as we rush to build untested aircraft (e.g. F-35), endorse problematic, unaffordable ship designs (e.g. LCS), and spend generously to defend against less, not more likely, threats (e.g. missile defense).

For one set of decisions, even if they are unspectacular, Secretary Gates deserves much good credit. He made people his first priority. Hopefully, that was not just rhetorical. The emphasis he put on medical research, caring for the wounded, and family support are all to be greatly commended. I fear, however, that Congress will do little more on this prime issue than simply throw money as it has in the past.

But let's hear from you guys...what did you think?

-- Christian

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