President Barack Obama set the stage Tuesday night for serious and long term cuts to major weapon systems, saying he would "reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use" at the same time that he pledged to increase the military's pay and veterans' benefits. "And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned," he said to loud applause.
Obama also told the packed House chamber that he would include the full price of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his budget, due out next week. "Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price."
All this would seem to force the services and OSD to choose between reset and new weapons, between future capabilities and what is needed today. Combine his statements with the commitments by Senate defense leaders to trim acquisition costs and improve how the nation buys its weapons and we seem to have a fundamentally different direction for the defense industry and the services. It may not mean deep cuts to many programs or much difference in the topline but it certainly seems to portend major changes to FCS, the F-22 and the presidential helicopter -- at least.
As Obama said early in his speech: "This is America. We don't do what's easy. We do what's necessary."