by Kingston Reif By Kingston Reif and Patricia Morris The international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials and keep our nation safe from nuclear terrorism is at a crossroads. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the President’s budget request and Congressional appropriations for threat reduction programs did not reflect the urgency of the threat. Funding […]
The saga continues in the fight to fund the F-35 extra engine. Today, the House voted 233-198 on an amendment that would cancel the program.
The vote split both Republicans and Democrats, with over 100 Republicans and around 130 Democrats voting yes. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) took the lead on the amendment, crediting House GOP leaders with allowing a vote on the issue despite Speaker John Boehner’s opposition.
Freshman Republicans in the House were initially hesitant to trim military spending, but have since broken ranks with their party’s speaker to include $16 billion in military cuts in the current spending bill. Cutting the F-35 extra engine would save an additional $450 million.
House GOP leaders hope to pass the overall spending bill later this week, which would fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year, but the buck does not stop there. The bill then goes to the Senate. Funding for the extra engine could be among the many changes that are made.
For Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, which begins on October 1, 2011, the Obama Administration has requested a base budget of $553 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD). This is $13 billion below the Pentagon’s Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) estimate, released last year, but represents about 3 percent in real growth over the funding the department would receive for FY 2011 under the current continuing resolution, which expires on March 4.
In addition, the Administration has requested $117.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a 26 percent decrease from last year’s request of $159.4 billion and represents the administration’s commitment to reduce troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan and place more strict rules on what can and cannot be included in the war spending request. In the past, additional funding has been made available through emergency supplemental appropriations, when needed. This remains a possibility for FY 2012. This brings the FY 2012 defense budget request to a total of $670.6 billion.
These numbers do not include nuclear weapons related spending in the Department of Energy (DoE) or other defense related funding.
In addition to an initial $670 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Administration has requested $18 billion for nuclear weapons activities at Department of Energy and $7 billion for additional non-Pentagon defense related activities. This brings total non-Pentagon defense related spending (053/054) to $25 billion, an increase of about $200 million over FY 2011.
As feared, the GOP-controlled House introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) on Friday to fund the federal government for the last seven months of the year that erases (and then some) the critical increases in NNSA’s FY 2011 budget request for threat reduction and nonproliferation programs. The CR actually reduces funding for NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation account below FY 2010 appropriations, which were already far too low to achieve NNSA’s nuclear security goals.
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation
Even NNSA’s weapons activities account was not exempt from cuts.
Aware of the writing on the wall, House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Visclosky (D-IN) reminded his colleagues of what’s at stake earlier this week:
I’d remind my colleagues that almost half of the monies that flow through the Energy and Water Subcommittee are defense-related. A lot of that is our nuclear programs, as well as nonproliferation. We went to war in 2003 because it asserted Saddam Hussein had materials of weapons of mass destruction.
It would be so much better for the world and our country, and so much more cost-effective, if we made an investment up front on nonproliferation so we did not face those types of draconian decisions in the future and do hope in all of our subcommittees in this committee, we do recognize we have to make that investment and we make wise choices as we do make cuts.
We’ll have more to say about this in the coming days and weeks as the CR moves through the House floor and ultimately to the Senate.
It’s now up to Senate Democrats and Republicans, primed by a strong, strong push from the administration, to ensure that the effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years doesn’t get derailed.
The knock on United States National Missile Defense based in Alaska and California is that it never has been proved to work in real-world situations. Billions of dollars have been spent on that system, now called “ground-based mid-course,” but there is no sure evidence that the defense would work should North Korea launch nuclear-tipped missiles against us.
Because of the powerful political backing for the program, missile defense has avoided the commonsense “Fly Before You Buy” mantra that prevents billions from being wasted on weapons that may eventually prove ineffective.
According to a recent report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), the government auditing agency, the Obama Administration is risking repeating history with its proposed missile defense systems in Europe.
The Bush Administration hid the true costs of National Missile Defense and avoided close scrutiny by using a policy it labeled “spiral development” – which probably should have stood for spiraling costs.
The Obama Administration’s new label is “phased adaptive approach.” According to the GAO, there are more questions than answers about the new plan.
To review the bidding, on September 17, 2009, President Obama announced a new approach for missile defense in Europe while canceling the Bush-planned system for establishing a third site for National Missile Defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. The revised system, to be deployed in phases of an increasingly capable system, was called “European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). The Administration argued that the new system could be deployed sooner against a nearer term threat and more comprehensively than the previous approach.
The first interceptors would be designed to protect U.S. forces deployed in Europe and our European allies against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles launched by Iran. Eventually, a matured system would help defend against longer-range threats.
The original interceptor deployments would take place on Aegis ships as early as 2011. Phase 2 is scheduled for 2015, including an Aegis defense system on land in Romania. In 2018, there would be more deployment in Poland and then a long-range defense by 2020.
NATO recently endorsed the territorial missile defense system, although it has yet to reach agreement on how to implement the new mission.
However, the missile defense agency is still exempt from rigorous standards. The GAO notes that: “MDA [Missile Defense Agency] continues to be exempted from DOD’s traditional joint requirements determination, acquisition, and associated oversight processes.”
In other words, there is no way to judge success if there are no clear requirements and goals except those defined by the agency with the most stake it defining the system as a success.
The GAO continues: “DOD does not have the information it needs to assess whether the EPAA schedule is realistic and achievable, identify potential problems,
or analyze how changes will impact the execution of this effort, and therefore is exposed to increased schedule, performance, and cost risks.”
As with National Missile Defense, the Pentagon may follow the proposed schedule and spend billions with no idea whether the system will really work. Pentagon does not yet have an overall cost estimate, according to the GAO. “DOD has not yet developed EPAA life-cycle cost estimates and has indicated that it is unlikely to do so because EPAA is considered a policy designed to maximize flexibility. As a result, DOD does not have a basis from which to assess EPAA’s affordability and cost-effectiveness and is missing a tool with which to monitor implementation progress.”
The GAO adds: “Without life-cycle cost estimates DOD may not be able to determine whether its revised approach to BMD in Europe is fiscally sustainable and affordable.”
In other words, the United States may be buying more pigs in pokes with no ability to reply on the new system during a crisis.
By rushing forward with many aspects of the program, the GAO notes, the system will may have challenges in getting all its parts working together: “EPAA’s phases are not yet integrated with key acquisition activities and so are exposed to risk of schedule slips, decreased performance, and increased cost”.
Now none of these criticisms should phase [pun intended] Republicans, who have long embraced missile defense whether or not the system has been proved to work.
These Republicans are modern-day Potemkin-ites. According to history/myths, Russian minister Grigory Potyomkin had hollow facades of villages constructed along the Dnieper River in order to impress Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787.
The modern-day equivalent is the hollow missile defenses in Alaska and California. The new Obama plan is running the same risk as the West Coast system.
The Administration should slow down, set realistic goals, come up with a definitive cost estimate, and test the hell out of the system.