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DoD Budget Vault Closing

Word from the Pentagon is that this week should see the final version of the 2010 budget sent to the White House.

Known in lovely Pentagon-speak as the POM lock, this will mean the services are barred from screwing around with their numbers any more. At least until the next administration comes in and they start running to the new folks crying, "the wolf is at the door! The wolf is at the door."

Several industry and Pentagon sources believe Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England are locking the POM this early (it usually happens just before Christmas, more or less) to forestall the kind of haggling that clearly had John Young, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, so frustrated last week that he actually told reporters that the services' gaming of the system was a "cancer."

The other reason to lock the POM down as early as possible is to present the defense transition team with as much information as early as possible so they can make considered judgements about the budget. They will have about two months to find out who is running things and try to make rational choices. If the presidential election is particularly close that will move decision points even further out.

A few of the big choices: How many F-22s; DDG 51 or DDX and how many; how many F-35s; fund the BASIC satellite program; fund an ARH replacement; and finally, decide whether to make a dramatic decision to kill a program or two to send message that defense spending (other than operations) will be frozen or cut over the life of the administration. There is little indication so far that either candidate is planning to make major defense changes, but if Obama is elected he will face some party pressure to cut defense spending or at least contain it.

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