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Military "Cuts" Cement Expanded Procurement Budget

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In a January 27 press briefing with General Ray Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, the outline of the Defense Strategic Guidance was given a little more detail as to how it relates to budgeting. Much has been made of the so called "defense cuts," though the corporate media has generally failed to note that the cuts are only to projected growth -- and hence, not actual spending cuts. 

The key "cuts" are in personnel. As General Odierno stated, "our strategy calls for us to no longer plan for large-scale stability operations." Forces will drop from a current level of 570,000, beyond a planned reduction of 520,000, to a new target of 490,000, which is slightly above the manpower level of 2001. In addition to reducing forces, personnel benefits will also be cut.

Odierno stated "the fundamental principle in the strategy says that we aren't going to do long-term stability operations. And that's what drove the increase in our end strength, the fact that we were engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan for eight and 10 years."

By reducing the personnel, but not reducing the increased spending level since 9/11, the military provides arms manufacturers and their investors the continued profitable atmosphere they've enjoyed during the last decade. In simple terms, by reducing personnel to pre-9/11 levels but maintaining the post 9/11 (ca. 80% in real spending) overall spending level, it clearly illustrates U.S. defense priorities are skewed towards weapons programs and production... which are highly profitable.

A question during the press briefing touched upon a specific example of the trend. The Ground Combat Vehicle, which the GAO had protested, will not be cut. The GAO previously issued a protest because it had questions concerning "how urgently it is needed, robustness of the analysis of alternatives, its cost and affordability, plausibility of its schedule, and whether mature technologies will be used." The protest was eventually lifted, and the General noted that it's back in the budget -- just delayed. 
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Personnel for the special operations forces will actually increase.  This has been picked up upon by mainstream media .

A briefing the same day by Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff told a similar story , in less detail. The General stated the Air Force will drop 10,000 airmen. Subsequently, the briefing reaffirmed that the KC-46 tanker, the F-35 joint strike fighter and the long-range strike bomber would not be dropped from the budget.

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Thus far the only procurement program the news page at the Department of Defense's site confirms has actually been cut is the Global Hawk Block 30 high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft, some of which have already been delivered. This was confirmed by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. The Global Hawk Block 30 is a relatively low budget program. No mention was made of the more expensive Global Hawk Block 40, about which the GAO had questions regarding its radar technology .


Global Hawk Block 40 by
US Air Force

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was present at that briefing, but no cuts to the Navy were mentioned in the account. This continues a trend since 9/11 in which the Navy, which is perhaps less concerned in the guerrilla wars fought by the U.S. in the last decade, has received extra procurement spending. Nicolas J S Davies documented and provided an excellent analysis of that trend in a 2010 article .

Interestingly, in remarks the previous day , Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made no reported mention of the "pivot to Asia" which featured in the Defense Strategic Guidance as a rationale for the guidance document. See our previous article regarding the Defense Strategic Guidance and manpower vs. procurement issues. If the "pivot" is only a fig leaf for maintaining high spending levels while departing from the "large-scale stability operations" business, perhaps some of the concern regarding U.S. aggressive stances toward China may not be as warranted.

At this point, it appears the National Defense Strategy has as much to do with protecting profit as anything else.

This article was co-published at scribillare.com.

 

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