Defense Roundup: Army Personnel Cuts Closer, and an F-35 Joke

Posted by Fred Wellman

US Navy, OSD Battle Over LCS Future

Christopher Cavas (@Cavasships), Defense News. It’s interesting to see how a well-timed story from Christopher Cavas can cause the Navy to go into full battle mode. Last week, in the middle of the annual Surface Navy Association conference near D.C., Cavas dropped a story that a memo from Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox dated January 6th was directing the Navy to curtail purchases of Littoral Combat Ships to a total of 32, foregoing 20 of the controversial ships. The effect was like a small bomb as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus himself appealed to Secretary of Defense Hagel to reconsider the decision. It seems the battle has resulted in a compromise where the program is essentially on probation similar to the one faced by the F-35 a few years ago under then SecDef Gates. With the new plan a total of 26 ships will be built but the entire fleet will have to pass testing by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation before more ships can be built. All of this comes as serious questions remain about the viability of the ships in combat with an identified weakness in the fleet of a frigate type ship that could escort logistics ships and convoys. The LCS has only self-defense systems, many of which aren’t even fully functional. That comes on top of a series of issues with the hull of the ship. All of this points to the continuing push to leave no sacred cows left untouched in the search for savings at DoD…except F-35. That cow is still pristine and unscarred.

Budget Plan Would Slash Army by 100,000 Soldiers

Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today. Under the 2015 budget plan currently being finalized in the Pentagon, the Army stands to lose more than 100,000 soldiers by 2019. The cuts would result in a 420,000-person Army representing more than 30,000 fewer than Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said was the minimum number needed to maintain the many roles and missions of the land service. There are currently 528,000 soldiers in the service with plans already in place to drop down to 490,000 by 2019 but the new numbers are the result of recognition of the budget cuts set in motion by sequester and other changes in the last two years. The battle royale that is heating up among the different services is also getting ugly between the Active Duty Army and National Guard. Last week Odierno set off angry complaints from National Guard leaders and Congressmen when he told a press conference that regular Army and National Guard troops are not “interchangeable” as Guard troops are less trained than regulars. We’ve long predicted that the battle over the shrinking food bowl would eventually turn into a dog fight and it appears the barking has begun.

$1B in Air Force Cargo Planes Sent to Boneyard Get New Missions

Barrie Barber, Dayton Daily News. We have followed the saga of the C-27J Spartan cargo planes for a couple of years now as the once promising joint Army-Air Force light cargo aircraft went from a needed system to being sent directly from the factory to the boneyard in Arizona. The aircraft was run over by the Air Force’s desire to upgrade to C-130Js and represented a new case study in the history of defense programs gone awry. It seems the aircraft are being rescued from the ashes thanks to a deal that transfers most of them to U.S. Special Operations Command and the Coast Guard in coming months. SOCOM will use seven of them for parachute training while the Coast Guard will add 14 of them to their maritime fleets. As part of the deal, seven aging C-130Hs from the Coast Guard will go to the Air Force for refurbishment and then transfer to the U.S. Forest Service to be used for firefighting.

Army’s GCV Program Downgraded to Study Project

Paul McLeary (@PaulMcLeary), Army Times. The dominoes have begun to fall on the Army’s modernization plans and it looks like the first victim will be the Ground Combat Vehicle program. The omnibus appropriations bill passed last week slashed the $592 million request from DoD down to just $100 million which one observer likened to just enough money to shut down the program. The program is currently in the Technology Development phase with contractors General Dynamics and BAE Systems working on $180 million and $160 million awards to complete the work on the development. That money will run out by June and insiders say the Army has been told to do nothing more than continue working on technology development but produce no vehicles. This essentially turns the effort to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle into a science experiment. One of the issues the Army was looking to solve is that the Bradley can’t hold an entire 9-soldier squad of troops but the Army has undermined its own argument by announcing a planned reduction in the size of squads in the future. So, with the shifting goal posts, Congress made the decision for them and pulled the funds. When the official cancelation announcement might come is anyone’s guess because it’s cheaper to keep tinkering with the concept than to cancel the whole thing due to money owed the two builders if killing it. So…backburner it is. Is JLTV next?

Getting rid of 900 Army Helicopters a Personnel Challenge as Much as a Llogistics One

John Grady, ScoutComms Special Correspondent. While defense budget and industry watchers are spouting off sound bites about what the Army’s planned helo cuts mean for bottom lines, our John Grady takes a look at what this means for the people who keep the deprecated helos in the air. If the past is any measure, there may soon be an exodus of experienced aircraft mechanics, maintainers, and even pilots on the civilian market if the Army doesn’t have the right career transition programs in place. This could be a big transition period for many service members and military families and is certainly one to keep an eye on as the services continue to look for ways to trim their numbers.

How the War Comes Home: Following up with the Veterans of Charlie Company

Nathan Webster, The Daily Beast. After embedding with the grunts of Charlie Company in Iraq in 2007 and 2009, Webster follows up with them now as company commanders and veterans. What he finds is that no veterans’ story is the same. Each man came away from war and the military with completely different ambitions and hopes for the future. Some enjoy leaving the military and split-second, life-or-death decisions behind them to focus on family and a job they leave at 5pm. Others found the transition from grunt to civilian took a bit longer. Another would get sympathy because he was the “typical” broken veteran but sympathy was the last thing he wanted. These grunts have more wisdom about the transition from military to civilian life than most news reports and Webster brings a fresh perspective to the currently trendy pieces looking back on Iraq.

Up to 48,000 Afghan, Iraq Vets at Risk for Homelessness

Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. The president has put an emphasis on ending veteran homeless by 2015. Part of that has been funding programs that prevent veterans suffering financial difficulties from falling into homelessness. Over the next two years, the VA will spend $600 million on programs supporting homeless veterans and their families, and young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are a growing population in need. From 2011 to 2013, the number of young veterans using VA’s programs for homeless or at risk veterans has nearly tripled. Homeless veterans advocates say Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have had a uniquely different experience with war including multiple deployments and a disengaged public which could mean this population will face more challenges when it comes to finding and maintaining a home.

Bill Covers Wide Range of Veterans Issues, Including Repeal of COLA Cuts for Retirees

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. A sign of just how intractable Congress was last year: the legislative body didn’t legislate on any major veterans issues. This year, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is looking to beat his colleagues at their own game by passing one massive veterans omnibus bill containing many of the provisions advocates have been clamoring for over the last few years. Though the bill addresses GI Bill fixes, survivors’ benefits, and advanced funding for VA, the biggest roadblock to its passage may be its repeal of the COLA reductions enacted in the most recent budget compromise. The sticking point for Republicans and Democratic budget hawks will be the lack of an offset to pay for the $6 billion a COLA fix will cost taxpayers. Expect discussions to heat up on the veterans’ omnibus next week when the Senate returns to work.

Must Read: One Family, Two Sacrifices

Ian Shapira, The Washington Post. Words cannot do justice to this piece on one of the six American families to have lost two sons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A heartbreaking piece on the meaning of service and sacrifice.

Tradeshows & Conferences

Nothing this week but we recently updated our full list of upcoming tradeshows

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Managing China’s Rise Who: Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, Ambassador Eric Edelman, distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Arvind Subramanian, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, Michael D. Swaine, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, January 22, 2014 Where: 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

Atlantic Council: Regional Defense Cooperation and the Transatlantic Link Who: H.E. Carl Haglund, Minister of Defense, Republic of Finland When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, January 23, 2014 Where: 1030 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor Washington, DC 20005

Fred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. You can follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 7:48 am

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