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Pentagon Budget Provides a Short-term View

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not in the room when the Pentagon unveiled its first budget request under the Obama administration on May 7, but he did not need to be, as his fingerprints are all over its themes of reform and unconventional warfare, as well as its omissions.

Those omissions include the absence of budget projections for the next five years. This is a budget for fiscal 2010 only, designed to start the Pentagon on its new path and carry it through to completion of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which will shape spending from FY '11 onward.

"We do not have a plan beyond 2010," said Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, in unveiling the proposed $663.8 billion budget. "We will await the results of the QDR."

Also missing were the new program starts that might have been expected in the 2010 budget cycle. The biggest is a restart: $439 million to begin another competition to replace the U.S. Air Force's KC-135 tankers.

Procurement programs getting under way or accelerating in 2010 include the Boeing P-8A maritime-patrol aircraft, with six for the Navy; Boeing AH-64D Block III, with eight for the Army; and General Atomics MQ-1C Warrior unmanned aircraft, with 36 for the Army.

The Air Force gets its first eight L-3/Alenia C-27J Joint Combat Aircraft, and takes over the program from the Army, but planned procurement is cut to 38 aircraft from 78. "We expect to get synergy with the C-130J in the Air Force, because of their commonality," said Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, director of force structure and resources for the joint staff.

C-12s

The Army is to procure six additional Hawker Beechcraft C-12 manned surveillance aircraft in 2010, and the possibility of transferring the Air Force's 37 MC-12W Project Liberty aircraft to the Army is under examination, according to Lt. Gen. Edgar Stanton, military deputy for budget.

Most of the terminations were already known, thanks to Gates' unveiling of his overaching budget plans in April (Aerospace DAILY, April 7). Additions to the list are the Missile Defense Agency's Kinetic Energy Interceptor, terminated because of "technical problems," Hale said.

He defended the Pentagon's decision to defy Congress and attempt to cancel the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for a third time. "We don't see a business case [for a second engine]. We think [cancellation] is the right thing for us to do."

Some of the terminations announced by Gates could lead to new programs after 2010, including a new presidential helicopter to replace the overbudget VH-71A. "We have restarted the requirements process to develop a proposal for a new competition," Stanley said. "We will work with the White House to better define the requirement and be more fiscally informed."

Read the rest of this story, check out the Phantom Ray, say your "aaaargh" and watch Eurofighters in Oz from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military.com.

-- Christian

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