The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis hosted a press conference about the Fiscal 2012 defense budget this morning. CSBA Senior Fellow Todd Harrison‘s full analysis is posted online here. Below are some notes from the press conference:
1. Avoiding the F-35 death spiral — Harrison’s position on the DOD’s $380 billion F-35 program is complicated. In short, he believes the current program is based on a false premise, but this isn’t a good time for DoD officials to set the record straight. Says Harrison:
“It’s not realistic to think we’ll end up buying the full 2,400 aircraft in the budget right now. [On the other hand], it would not be wise for the DoD this year to signal to our allies that we’re going to cut back on our buys. … That’s going to affect a lot of our allies, and that could actually put the program into a death spiral. We don’t need to make the decision about cutting the number of JSFs until 2017, 2018 and 2019.”
2. Awarding the KC-X contract — This is also a complicated problem. It’s more than four months into Fiscal 2011, and Congress still has not passed an appropriations bill. This is bad news for the KC-X competition, which is in the final phase of a source selection process. The rules are pretty clear: No appropriations bill, no funding for new programs. There is a possible loophole called the Feed and Forage Act — a Civil War-era statute that allows combat troops to buy certain things, including transportation, without a specific appropriation. Harrison says the DOD may attempt to invoke the Feed and Forage Act for KC-X, but it’s unlikely to work. More likely, he says, is that the USAF may downselect to a single bidder, then wait until Congress passes the next appropriations bill to award a contract. How long will that take? Given the current political statemate, that’s anybody’s guess.
3. The future of the next-generation bomber — The US Air Force has previously allocated about $1.7 billion over the next five years to build a long-range strike system. If the Department of Defense is really serious about accelerating the development and fielding of the new bomber, Harrison says, there should be an increase of $1-2 billion in that account. Stay tuned …