How a CR would hurt; USAF budget preview; War-ready F-35s; and more...

Hello from Defense One’s Outlook 2020, our annual future-looking discussion of global threats, industry trends, advanced technology, national-security policy and more. I moderated the opening panel, which was ostensibly about the national industrial base — but we sure spent a lot of time talking about a looming fiscal cliff. What, you say, didn’t Congress pass a two-year budget deal earlier this year?

They did, but just for top-line figures. Lawmakers still need to iron out the details and things like whether to fund President Trump’s much-desired border wall have become major sticking points. So there is no defense appropriations bill or authorization bill yet. The government is being funded through a continuing resolution, which freezes spending a fiscal 2019 levels even though fiscal 2020 started on Oct. 1. Lawmakers approved a CR that runs through Nov. 21, meaning they have until then to extend the CR or pass a year-long appropriations bill. If neither of those things happen, the government shuts down.

Our panelists this morning — Eric Fanning, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association; Hawk Carlisle, CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association; and Charles Harrington, CEO of Parsons — seemed in agreement that they would like to see the budget passed annually before the fiscal year ends and that a yearlong CR is not good for business.

“China and Russia don’t have continuing resolutions,” Carlisle said. “Their industry never has to deal with that.”

The retired Air Force general, expressed support for bipartisan legislation that would allow Congress to pass two-year budgets. “It kind of takes the topline budget out of the political football realm and puts it into a little bit more regular order,” Carlisle said.

Added Fanning, a former Army secretary: “We have an annual budget that we create every year and gets passed every year, which is just not an effective way to plan for the Department of Defense based on how long it takes to build the equipment and to train the people who use it.”

The current budget, with seemingly annual continuing resolutions “is very disruptive for the Department of Defense and for industry to plan around that.”

“Absolutely the most important thing we can do for the department and for the industrial base is to get some stability back into the process,” Fanning said. “If we can lengthen that planning timeline that’s even better.”

Harrington said CRs hurt technology development.

“The pace of change of technology is just ever going, ever increasing, so you can’t just take a time out and expect yourself to stay up with you adversaries and competition,” he said.

So what’s the outlook going for 2020 and beyond?

“Most people are expecting that the current defense budget is a highwater mark no matter what happens in the next election,” Fanning said. “In many ways it’s great that we’ve had two good years for the department to catch up on some things, but…there needs to be some commitment, some understanding, and some stability for a very long horizon.”

Gen. Dave Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff, said Wednesday that 2021 might be “the last good year,” after two years of far-above-inflation growth.

JUST IN: Right as we were about to hit send, the Pentagon sent this list of consequences of a six-month continuing resolution:


  • 31 production rate increases will be delayed, putting at risk programs like the UH-60M helicopter and necessary Stryker upgrades.
  • Army modernization efforts for the Assured-Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross Functional Team will be postponed, preventing procurement of new capabilities valued and halting the current fielding of systems to 2nd Cavalry Regiment and rotational Armored Brigade Combat Teams executing missions across Europe.

Air Force:

  • Munitions procurement will be reduced by 1,000 Joint Direct Attack Munition tailkits, 99 Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missiles and 665 Small Diameter Bomb II munitions, which will constrain industrial production capabilities and delay inventory buildup. 
  • F-15EX development and production will be delayed, which will force the Air Force to operate and sustain an aging F-15C fleet longer than planned, incurring added extensive maintenance actions.


  • Operation and Maintenance shortfalls will curtail 14 ship availabilities, cancel ship underway training, and shutdown non-deployed CVW/expeditionary squadrons. 
  • The delivery of one VIRGINIA SSN, one Fleet Ocean Tug, and two Landing Craft Utility vessels will be delayed.


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Goldfein Previews Air Force 2021 Budget Request

Gen. Dave Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, put some more meat on the bones about his signature plan to better connect forces on the battlefield. An internal review, called “night court” or the “zero-based review,” has identified “about $30 billion” over the next five years that the Air Force plans to shift to higher-priority initiatives, Goldfein said Wednesday at an Air Force Association breakfast on Capitol Hill.

“We took a look at every legacy program that we have and asked the question: Does this contribute significantly in a 2030 to 2038 fight,” he said. “If the answer to that was now, we looked at can we accelerate its retirement in order to free the money up to buy the digital architecture and the capability that we need going forward.” 

Goldfein singled out four priority areas in the 2021 budget proposal (which is typically sent to Congress in February) and how that $30 billion will be shifted between 2021 and 2025:

  • $9 billion to “digital architecture [and] cloud architecture that we need to be able to not only connect the Air Force, but to connect the joint force.”
  • Another $9 billion to “defensive and offensive space capabilities.” Much of those efforts will be classified, Goldfein said. The general pledged to provide regular briefing to lawmakers and their staffs about those efforts.
  • The third focus area is “generating combat power,” but the general did not identify specific funding level.
  • About $3 billion will be spent to figure out how to move troops and equipment in new ways. “We are no longer assuming that will have unfettered access to logistics in the future,” he said.

Norway’s War-Ready F-35s

Norway’s F-35s were deemed battle ready on Wednesday, making the country the third in Europe with jets to achieve initial operational capability. Next year, Norway’s F-35s — currently based at Ørland Main Air Station — will deploy to Iceland where they will fly air policing missions. The Norwegian Air Force plans to start using F-35s for “quick reaction alert” missions to defend its northern airspace by 2022, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The U.K. and Italy have deemed their F-35s battle ready.

Predictive Maintenance Continues to Spread Through Military

The U.S. Marine Corps has hired artificial intelligence firm Uptake to use its technology “to improve the condition-based monitoring of the M88s, which act as recovery vehicles for impaired ground combat vehicles,” the company said in a Nov. 4 statement. The Army is already using Uptake’s technology to monitor the health of Bradley fighting vehicles. “With these actionable insights, the Army has increased operational availability, improved logistics, reduced maintenance costs, and improved safety for the men and women who serve America,” the company said.

ICYMI: Here’s some of our past coverage of the military’s push to use AI to predict when weapons will break.

Reagan Library Gets F-117

An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter will join an F-14 Tomcat and Air Force One at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The Lockheed Martin-made plane, which was developed in secrecy, will be unveiled during the Reagan National Defense Forum in December. According to the Reagan Foundation: “The F-117 Nighthawk, Tail #803, nicknamed ‘Unexpected Guest,’ flew more combat sorties (78) than all other F-117s combined.” 

Speaking of the Reagan Library, wildfires came dangerously close to the hilltop compound last week. Interestly enough, a herd of goats deployed to the complex earlier this year contributed to the library being spared. “The hired goats munched through brush to create a fire break that slowed the blaze and let firefighters douse flames on Wednesday before they reached exhibits like an Air Force One jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall, a library spokeswoman said,” Reuters reports.

Making Moves

The White House on Wednesday said President Trump intends to nominate Elaine McCusker to be the Pentagon comptroller. McCusker is the Defense Department’s deputy comptroller, but has been serving in that roll all year. 

BAE Systems has named Caitlin Hayden its senior vice president of communications. We told you a few weeks back that Hayden was leaving the Aerospace Industries Association where she was the organization's top spox.

Joseph Votel, the retired four-star former commander of U.S. Central Command, has been named a member of the executive board of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.