Let the Air Force Do ItIn separate moves, the armed services panels of the House and Senate wrote provisions evidently aimed at giving to the Air Force all medium- to high-flying UAVs and tactical mobility responsibilities.
The House Armed Services Committee, in its 2008 defense bill, gave the Defense Department about one year to explain what it plans to do about creating an executive agent for UAVs that fly above 3,500 feet. The Air Force has pressed the Pentagon to give it that job for UAVs that fly at medium to high altitude. (See “Editorial: A Better UAV Flight Plan,” April, p.2.)
Marshall said the Defense Department essentially punted on the UAV issue two years ago. In 2005, it declined to name the Air Force executive agent, instead assigning such responsibilities to the UAV Center of Excellence, a joint organization.
The bill includes provisions that may mollify the services that don’t get the executive agency job. For instance, it directs that the joint force commanders will always get the final say on the best approach to allocation and control of UAVs in a conflict.
In its 2008 authorization bill, the Senate panel said the Air Force should be in charge of fixed-wing airlift, and it moved $157 million of Army money to the Air Force to conduct the JCA program. The Army could also be cut out of the acquisition and operation of the aircraft, which was initially intended to replace Army C-23 Sherpa and C-12 Huron small transports, said committee members.
The Army has claimed it needs some control because the Air Force has not always supported the Army when it asked for help. The panel, however, said Army leaders had failed to produce any concrete evidence for this charge, despite hearing many Army anecdotes about being stiffed.
The Air Force is “better positioned” to provide tactical airlift in both war and peace, the Senate panel said, admonishing the Army to spend its money on core missions known to be “underfunded,” rather than try to have its “own air force.”
The “little ones” are defined as fights against insurgents and the conduct of stability operations. “Big ones” would be, say, conventional conflicts with big regional powers.
The authors argued that the US will face three big military challenges in the future: fighting terrorist groups, countering regional nuclear threats, and coping with the rising military and economic powers of Asia, primarily China.
The RAND group suggested “relieving” the ground element of the requirement to fight more than one major ground war, and emphasizing smaller operations in training and equipping, since these are the most likely combat operations ground forces will face. Air and naval forces can play an important role in such operations, but it will be the ground forces that will have to work most directly with “their host-country counterparts.”
Given limited resources, the defense leaders need to judge how to apportion risk: They can maintain ground forces in readiness for large ground wars where they likely won’t be needed in huge numbers—and do a poor job at counterinsurgency—or they can shift resources to let the air and naval forces take on “some of the burden for large force-on-force” conflicts.
Removing the need for the Army and Marine Corps to fight more than one big war would “improve their stability operations capabilities qualitatively and quantitatively ... [and] keep overall demands on the forces of these two services manageable.”
Both services would need to “place much greater emphasis on defeating enemies armed with nuclear weapons and with more sophisticated anti-access capabilities than have heretofore been encountered.”
Roles & Missions ScuffleThe Pentagon is “overdue” for an exhaustive, top-to-bottom re-think of the roles and missions of the military services, reports the House Armed Services Committee. Defense officials should conduct one soon, the panel went on, adding that it should repeat the process every four years, from now on.
The panel issued its conclusions in a statement released with its version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.
After such a review, declared the committee, the United States military should organize itself into “core mission areas” such as dominance of ground, air, maritime, and space environments, expeditionary warfare, mobility, homeland defense, and cyber operations.
The mandated review would not only identify areas where the services are drifting outside their “core” functions, but also highlight fundamental missions within the services that aren’t getting the attention and resources they deserve, the committee said.
The Pentagon currently conducts another every-four-years study, the Quadrennial Defense Review, but the House panel wants the roles and missions analysis done separately from the QDR, which assesses forces, policy, threats, and budgets. The next QDR is to take place in 2009, after the start of a new Presidential term.
The House panel also wants DOD’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council to better focus the efforts of the services—and even has provided suggested ways to do this.
The House panel said it believes the JROC today is “too insulated from the realities of the acquisition and budget processes.” It wants to make sure that “clear priorities and budget guidance” in the JROC process keep service imperatives from driving program decisions.
The JROC would also have to certify that cost estimates are “consistent” with the level of resources committed in what is known as the initial capabilities document. If a program were to exceed 25 percent of the cost estimate before going into full production, it would get kicked back to the JROC “for a decision on whether to terminate or continue the system.”
People Vs. ProgramsThe White House in May asked Congress to rein in its generosity on military pay and health benefits, highlighting the growing issue of balancing troop compensation with urgently needed hardware programs.
The White House called the extra amount “unnecessary.” The requested three percent raise, said OMB, is sufficient to keep military pay “competitive” with private employment and “provides a good quality of life for service members and their families,” especially “when combined with the overall military benefit package,” which includes generous health care, housing allowances, retirement, and dependent services.
Combined, the pay bump-up and absence of health care reforms will cost the Pentagon about $26.5 billion more over the coming five-year program than it planned to spend. While OMB did not link the amount to any hardware program, such a sum is about what the Air Force expects to spend on the F-35 fighter and KC-X tanker replacement program during that period.
However, the issue of people vs. programs has been heating up. The services have seen more and more of their modernization programs eaten up by the costs of the wars in Southwest Asia, rising maintenance costs on old equipment, and military personnel costs—led by pay and health care—which have swelled by 50 percent during the last six years.
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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