When President Trump’s 2018 defense budget proposal arrived on Capitol Hill two weeks ago, Senate Armed Services chair Sen. John McCain derided it as “inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.” But there’s more than a hint of commonality between Trump’s proposal and a shadow budget McCain himself advanced in January.
First, the numbers: McCain proposed a $640 billion budget. That figure includes money for nuclear weapons appropriated via Energy Department. McCain’s budget plan also includes $60 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, aka the war budget. The total: $700 billion.
President Trump’s first defense budget is $603 billion. That includes $574 billion for the Pentagon, $29 billion for nuclear weapons via Energy. Then there’s another $65 billion for OCO. The total: $668 billion. So Trump’s budget is $32 billion less than McCain’s, right? Not exactly.
Late last week, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force all sent to Congress their “unfunded requirements lists,” the weapons they really, really want, but could not squeeze into the budget. The Army requested $12.7 billion, the Navy $5.3 billion, the Marine Corps $3.2 billion and the Air Force $10.7 billion. Grand total $32 billion. (H/T to Cowen analyst Roman Schweizer who noticed this.)
Add that $32 billion to Trump’s proposed $668 billion budget proposal and what do you get? $700 billion. So Trump’s budget is McCain’s budget, right? Not exactly. McCain details a massive military buildup, which Pentagon officials say we will not see from Trump until his 2019 budget proposal next year.
Now, about that Budget Control Act cap. We’ll leave that one alone this week because it’s sure to come up no fewer than a million times in the coming months.
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The Defense Implications of the Qatar Flap
Lots of ink spilled this week on possible U.S. implications of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. First and foremost, there’s the 10,000 troops and dozens of planes at Al Udeid Air Base outside of Doha. It’s also home to U.S. Air Forces Central Command and operations center that oversees all military airstrikes and reconnaissance over Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Then there’s the arms-sale angle. There’s a looming $21.1 billion deal for up to 72 F-15 fighter jets. Boeing the lead U.S. company for that deal, but a Pentagon announcement about the deal’s approval lists 11 other American firms that stand to directly benefit.
Less talked about are the implications for missile defense. Back in 2015, I wrote about how the Middle East has four minutes to react if Iran fired a missile westward. Not much time at all.
One of the keys is detecting the missile launch. Earlier this year, Qatar awarded Raytheon a $1 billion deal for massive early warning radar to do just that. Since Gulf states can typically unite in their concern about Iranian missiles, the U.S. has been pushing them to share missile defense information, so they’re all not firing Patriot or THAAD interceptors at a missile. That radar in Qatar would be a big part of that. It is tough enough before this week’s diplomatic crisis to get the secretive nations to better integrate their missile defense networks. Now it’s likely to be even tougher.
Items Added to Saudi Arms Deal
The State Department OKed some more items that are part of the up-to-$110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia announced last month. (Reminder: this approval doesn’t mean these deals will actually happen.) First, a $662 million deal for 26 Lockheed Martin border security radars and training mortars. Second is a $750 million deal for training. “This training for the [Royal Saudi Air Force] and other Saudi forces will include such subjects as civilian casualty avoidance, the law of armed conflict, human rights command and control, and targeting via [mobile training teams] and/or broader Programs of Instruction,” a Pentagon notice states.
Canada Plans Defense Spending Bump
Amid U.S. pressure for NATO allies to increase defense spending, Canada plan to grow its annual budget from $14 billion (USD) today to $24.2 billion a decade hence. It plans to increase the size of the military, buy new surface warships and fighter jets, and upgrade air defenses and combat vehicles. Here’s U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ response: “This new defense policy demonstrates Canadian resolve to build additional military capacity and a more capable fighting force. In light of today’s security challenges around the world, it’s critical for Canada’s moral voice to be supported by the hard power of a strong military.”
More Twists in Compass Call Saga
Two major turns in the Air Force’s attempts to move the electronics from the EC-130H to a new higher-flying jet. First, Bombardier joined Boeing in protesting the Air Force’s plan to allow L3 Technologies to choose that new plane. The second twist concerns the term “lead system integrator,” a designation that can give the government less transparency, and which several Air Force leaders have used to describe L3’s role (in letters to Congress and in an interview with Defense One). Now the Air Force is backing off that that terminology. ”The planned role for L3 Technologies on this program does not meet the statutory definition of a Lead Systems Integrator,” Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email. “The aircraft integration to be performed by L3 Technologies makes up a significant portion of the Compass Call re-host program and L3 Technologies is not being asked to perform any inherently governmental functions. Rather, L3 Technologies will be responsible for transferring existing mission equipment from the EC-130H aircraft to an existing commercial derivative aircraft platform as a systems integrator. This is not a change to the acquisition strategy; it is just a clarification on terminology.”
New Germ-Killing Paint OKed for Military Bases
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Air Force Tanker Delayed, Again
The Air Force says yes, until “late spring” 2018. “The top issues slowing progress are achieving the FAA airworthiness certifications and completing the flight test program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, a service spokeswoman said of the new KC-46 on Thursday morning. “Once Boeing receives the remaining design approvals from the FAA, they expect testing to proceed on a faster pace.” Boeing still believes it can deliver the first plane by the end of the year.
Elon Musk to Launch Secret Boeing Space Plane
The fifth mission of the X-37B — better know as a the secret space plane — will start on a SpaceX rocket later this year. The previous four missions launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V.
Frank Kendall, the former undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, has a new job with Renaissance Strategic Advisors, an aerospace and defense industry advisory firm. Kendall’s title: executive in residence. He was a managing partner at the firm between 2008 and 2010 before heading to the Pentagon.
Air Force Undersecretary Lisa Disbrow, who was the service’s acting secretary until Heather Wilson was sworn in last month, plans to retire next month, an Air Force spokeswoman said this week. No word on a replacement yet.
Daniel Feehan, former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness, has joined the Center for a New American Security as an adjunct senior fellow in the Military, Veterans, and Society Program. In that role, Feehan “will contribute to CNAS’ research, mentor junior staff, and provide expert advice on key policy matters,” the think tank said in a statement.
The White House this week nominated Richard Spencer to be Navy secretary, Patrick Shanahan to be deputy defense secretary, Owen West to be the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, and Ryan McCarthy, to be Army undersecretary. Of the 53 Senate-confirmed jobs at Defense, the Trump administration has now filled five and has 11 people currently nominated for other positions.