For all the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, the Defense Department so far has escaped this year's budget-cutting fervor relatively unscathed. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, no amount of money will ever truly be enough for the Puzzle Palace, but at very least it and the White House project relative stasis for the next several years. Unless, that is, President Obama announces today that DoD will appear in the budget crosshairs for realz this time.
Obama is scheduled to speak at 1:35 today to respond to a resurgent call in Washington -- especially on the Hill -- to adopt the recommendations of his own Fiscal Commission (among other things) which called for many cuts across DoD in its chairmen's and official reports last year. How discordant are the budget and deficit-reduction politics in Washington? The Fiscal Commission couldn't even agree on its own findings, so its chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, released their own report before the full panel's came out, which is kind of like putting out a solo album before the band even breaks up.
If Obama or Congress actually go forward with implementing some or all of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, the Pentagon's holiday will be over. The chairmen singled out a number of programs they believe should be scaled back or terminated, including the V-22; the Ground Combat Vehicle; the F-35 (the Marines' F-35B in particular would be killed); the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, etc. You can check out the full rundown here. Bowles and Simpson also would cut administrative spending, use of contractors, and suchlike. Bottom line: The party would really be over.
There's no reason to expect the ax to hit any of those programs in particular, but Obama's speech today could at least put DoD back on the chopping block.