In mid-December the U.S. Congress authorized $662 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2012, trimming $27 billion from President Obama’s request in probably the last budget before deeper, more painful cuts are required by the Budget Control Act passed in August. In February the White House submitted a $689 billion budget request, including $553 billion for the base Department of Defense budget, $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $18 billion for national security programs of the Department of Energy and Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The House-Senate conference agreement, passed by both chambers, reduces the DOD base budget to $530 billion, $115 billion for overseas contingency operations and $17 billion for DOE programs.
Substantially more must be cut beginning in Fiscal Year 2013 as a consequence of the Budget Control Act and the failure of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on reducing the federal deficit. That failure triggered a procedure of “sequestration,” or automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years, split between defense and nondefense spending. Under threat of a veto by President Obama, defense “hawks” in Congress vow to block automatic cuts. If sequestration does occur, the Aerospace Industries Association has estimated that government spending on military equipment alone will be reduced by $45 billion in fiscal 2013.
The Lockheed Martin F-35, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and a next-generation bomber are among programs considered targets for cutbacks or cancellation. All are supported in the FY2011 authorization. Funding is deleted for one of 19 F-35s requested by the Air Force, with seven Navy and six Marine Corps aircraft approved as requested. The bill authorizes $2.1 billion for Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys and $339 million for Air Force CV-22s. The bill fully funds $197 million sought for the next-generation bomber, while designating the engine development “as a subprogram of a major defense acquisition program requiring competition.”
Among other aircraft programs, the legislation requires the Air Force Audit Agency to conduct an audit of the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft re-engining program. Congress has stiffened a budget provision from previous years that would prohibit the Air Force from retiring the U-2 surveillance aircraft until its planned replacement, the Global Hawk, provides equivalent capability.
The Army takes hits in the bill, losing $540 million requested for Emarss–the Enhanced Medium-Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System–a Boeing system based on the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER. The bill cuts $298 million of the $776 million sought for the Joint Tactical Radio System due to program delays with the ground mobile and airborne, maritime/fixed radios.