Carter: Budget Proposal Makes 'Consequential' Cuts
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2012 An overview of the Defense Department’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget reveals “the most consequential adjustments” the Pentagon has had to make in more than a decade, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said today.
Carter joined Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a roundtable discussion with Pentagon reporters following a budget briefing by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“It’s very easy to talk about deficit reduction,” Panetta said. “It's very tough to do something that, in fact, reduces the deficit.”
DOD leaders are working to reduce the department’s budget by $487 billion over 10 years, an adjustment of nearly 9 percent. They won’t release the proposed DOD budget before President Barack Obama releases the entire federal budget proposal in the coming weeks.
No part of the proposed defense budget went unexamined, Carter said.
“Some parts of the budget were protected or even increased and inevitably that meant, because of their importance to the country and the future, that other areas took more cuts. The result,” he added, “is a carefully balanced package.”
The package includes reductions achieved through more disciplined use of defense dollars, strategically driven shifts in force structure and modernization, and modest but important adjustments in personnel costs.
“Because of the value we place on the people of the all-volunteer force, who make it the world’s greatest force, there are lesser cuts in this category,” the deputy secretary said.
During the roundtable, reporters asked Carter and Winnefeld about specific parts of the budget, including the F-35 joint strike fighter, the decision to maintain the fleet of 11 Navy aircraft carriers, and the future of the Global Hawk program.
Carter said the department got some good news last week when Panetta announced that the Short Takeoff, Vertical Landing variant, one of three variants, of the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II, was back on its development track.
“That was the result of some good engineering work done in the last year … and that means all three variants can go forward,” he said, adding that there still are problems with program’s cost and performance.
“All of those associated with the management of the program -- our industry partners [and] ourselves -- are working our way through that, and we’ll ride up that curve to full-rate production as and when it’s economically and managerially prudent to do it,” Carter added.
“It’s a terrific airplane,” Winnefeld said.
“We’re very committed to it and it does represent the future of tactical aviation for this country and a lot of our partners. We just need the manufacturability of this thing to catch up so we can start buying,” the admiral added. “We’re very anxious to get it into the fleet.”
The focus of the new defense strategy on the Asia-Pacific region puts new emphasis on air and naval forces, and Winnefeld characterized the utility of aircraft carriers there.
“The capability, the flexibility, the independent capability of a carrier from basing, the applicability of that ship in an anti-access environment, and its particularly useful role in the Middle East and the Pacific … ” the admiral said, “makes it a particularly adept platform for the type of things we want to do strategically in the future.”
One program that did not make the cut in the proposed defense budget is the Global Hawk Block 30 high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft.
The program cancellation “is an example of the way we need to pay attention to cost performance with a budget like the one we have,” Carter said. “Block 30 was supposed to replace the U-2 for taking pictures from the air, and that was the idea, to do it with the [unmanned aerial vehicle],” Carter explained.
Other forms of Global Hawk, such as the Block 40, are still in production, the deputy secretary said. “But the Block 30 priced itself out of the niche of taking pictures in the air.”
The Defense Department, Carter added, will continue to use the U-2 for aerial photography.
“That's a disappointment to us,” he said. “We had hoped to replace the U-2 with the Global Hawk, but the Global Hawk became expensive. And that's the fate of things that become too expensive in a resource-constrained environment.”