Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates hosted a meeting with top defense company executives for the first time since 2008, where he stressed the need for a closer partnership and pledged to work with the White House to “secure steady growth in the Pentagon’s budgets over time.”
Steady growth seems likely, since recent reports indicate that the President’s upcoming defense budget request will increase from $636.3 billion to a record $708 billion in FY 2011. This number does not include an additional $33 billion in supplemental appropriations, set to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But although Gates has called for ‘steady’ growth, he has also vowed to kill many unneeded and troubled programs.
Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn reiterated the criteria that senior Pentagon leaders have used to determine which weapon programs will be cut or curtailed in FY 2011: “Our criteria for exercising program discipline are clear: programs that are performing poorly, either over budget or behind schedule or delivering less capability than promised, open themselves up to reconsideration.”
In addition, Reuters reports that, “it looks like mounting public concern about federal spending and the sharply widening budget deficit are likely to curb the ability of lawmakers to pump money back into programs targeted for termination as they have in the past.”
Draft budget documents obtained this week show Gates is seeking to end seven weapons programs in FY 2011, including two that were rescued from the eight-item kill list last year — Boeing Co’s C-17 transport plane and a second engine for Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet.
Other new terminations are less surprising, including a new Navy cruiser and a program to replace the Navy’s EP-3 surveillance plane, while some programs, such as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, an amphibious vehicle being developed for the Marine Corps by General Dynamics Corp that has experienced problems in the past, have apparently escaped the axe, at least for now.
The U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review and FY 2011 budget request will be released one week from today. Until then, the speculation continues.