Commentary

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DoD, Wake Up And Cut!

The tidal wave is coming for defense budgets. Promising $100 billion in savings over five years, but hoping to keep the funds is not going to hold it back. The wave is coming, first, from a growing sentiment that America’s debts and deficits are our number one security problem, as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen has said, and that defense must play a part in solving the problem.


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Playing Piggyback in Space

Satellites are very expensive. The sensors on them are very expensive. Launching satellites is very expensive. One way the government has considered saving some of those costs is by piggybacking its sensors on commercial satellites. Known as hosted payloads, such packages have attracted considerable interest from the government. Josh Hartman, who was one of the Pentagon’s top space acquisition officials and is now with the Center for Strategic Space Studies, offers a step-by-step approach to get both sides closer to their goal.


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DoD Must Share The Pain

The battle of the budget has been fully joined by the ideologues of the Democrats and Republicans this week. On the right, we have Monday’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Arthur Brooks, Edwin Feulner and the redoubtable William Kristol in which they argue that the defense budget must not pay for the deficit. Now, on the left, we bring you the views of William Hartung of the New America Foundation. He has aimed high, for almost $1 trillion in cuts. We’ll see if this debate spreads beyond the Beltway and into the conversations of decent people over the dinner table and in bars.


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Bolton is STILL Wrong on Start

With the Senate likely to vote on the new START treaty this week, activists are eager to ensure every senator has what they think is the right information. John Bolton, former Bush administration honcho on arms controls, fired another salvo in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the Obama administration is wrong to count converted boomers as nuclear assets. Dennis M. Gormley, who teaches at the University of Pittsburg’s Ridgway Center, strikes back at Bolton here. arguing that the Joint Chiefs actually know what they are doing.


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$1 TRILLION Bought Older, Smaller Forces; Fix it, Mr. Gates

The United States has spent $2 trillion since 1998 on wars and regular defense spending and has been left “with a smaller Navy and Air Force and a tiny increase in the size of the Army,” argues Winslow Wheeler, defense analyst at the Center for Defense Information. If Defense Secretary Robert Gates is serious about restructuring the military and what it buys, then he better get going or he’ll be a “wasted asset,” Wheeler says.


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GDP Rank Leads To Pricklier PRC

It was the top story in the Wall Street Journal — China looks set to become the world’s second largest economy. But the New York Times put it on the front page of the business section, seeming to indicate this story was less a milestone and more a technical correction. The need for analysis was obvious so we asked a Chinese expert at the Heritage Foundation to give us a better idea of just how important this fact is and why. Dean Cheng’s conclusion: the PLA must still fight for its share of the pot, but a growing pot will probably drive a demand for greater deference from China to those who share its neighborhood.


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QDR Panel Dropped Strategy Ball

Many critics panned the Pentagon’s most recent QDR, saying it failed to make hard strategic choices. So a blue-ribbon QDR Independent Panel was built. As our new commentator, Brian M. Burton, argues in the following piece, instead of “focusing on specific priorities, it recommended doing more of everything.”


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Gates’ Tries Hard, Won’t Stop Cuts

Robert Gates strode forth Monday into bureaucratic battle yet again, this time pledging to scrap Joint Forces Command,trim the ranks of senior officers and civilians and slash the ranks of contractors. His goal was simple: to forestall congressional or administration attempts to cut the overall Pentagon budget, as Rep. Barney Frank and others have called for. Analyst Winslow Wheeler argues Gates deserves a pat on the back for trying, but he doesn’t think this latest effort goes far enough. And he predicts Congress will still ladle out the pork.


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Gold In Them Thar Efficiencies

At Thursday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing, I asked former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, now a professor at Stanford University, what chance the Gates Pentagon has of finding $100 billion in efficiencies. He laughed hard, shook his head and said: “Good luck with that!” Now, he didn’t say it can’t happen, but you get the idea. In the following commentary, Winslow Wheeler argues that there are, in fact, enormous efficiencies to be found in the Pentagon. He points to “overhead” and a recent Defense Business Board report. Read on.


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Right Strikes Out on START

This week the Senate Armed Services Committee held a highly classified hearing on what is probably the core issue of the treaty: verification. Next week the committee holds an open hearing on treaty implementation. That should bring a few howls of anguish from Republicans committed to squashing the treaty, afraid it will leave the United States less safe in a dangerous world. Earlier this week, we ran a START commentary by a group created by the folks at Heritage. Today, the left — in the form of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation – swings back, arguing that START will make us safer.


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F-16 Pilot Loves 2nd Engine

The second great engine war, in which we are currently embroiled, offers many components of a fabulous story: national security, jet fighters, three great and combative companies, politicians and congressional experts and lobbyists and lots of cash. (So far we don’t have any sex, but a reporter can only hope.) Into that mix boldly strides a former F-16 pilot who just can’t keep his mouth shut while the second engine for the Joint Strike fighter’s fate is still uncertain. Read Robert Newton’s commentary on why he thinks the F-136 is a must have.



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New Coalitions Threaten DoD Bucks

Change is coming to the Pentagon. The prevailing wisdom is that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates brings it. Real change is, indeed, in the wind, but it is not coming from Gates. The long overdue program terminations and overhead savings Gates pursues are surely welcome, but they are not bringing the re-birth the Pentagon desperately needs. Luckily, others seek to do what is needed. Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., has put together an alternative budget plan to reduce spending there by $1 Trillion over 10 years.


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Oil Spill: Where is the Coastie Debate?

The Coast Guard needs money. At a time when the service is due to whack 1,100 uniform positions and drop some missions, it must manage the government response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, pursue drug traffickers, rescue fishermen and sailors, guard our nation’s coasts and enforce all those fishing and environmental regulations. Defense consultant Robbin Laird argues that one very apt place to pull funding for the Coast Guard’s environmental and emergency responses is the Minerals Management Service, which generates about $13 billion each year working with oil companies to develop oil and natural gas fields. Stop pointing fingers, Laird says, and do something.


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Gates, Hill Should Change Benefits

We need to cut weapons spending, trim the bloated ranks of the military bureaucracy and reign in runaway pay and benefits Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the nation Saturday in his speech from the steps of the Eisenhower Library in Kansas. And that speech came a few days after Gates warned the Navy to rethink its course on carriers, on new nuclear submarnes and he placed crosshairs on the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. So we asked Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Foundation what Congress needs to do and whether Gates is on the right path or is veering off course. Read on to find her answers.


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Obama Erred Sharing Nuke Numbers

The Obama administration took the unique decision this week to release the exact number of American nuclear weapons as part of its effort o be transparent and to encourage other countries to do the same. That, combined with some other recent national security moves, has commentator Ed Timperlake, author and principal director for mobilization, planning and requirements in the Reagan administration, arguing that the administration’s “confusion, political posturing and muddled launch” do not serve the nation well. Read on.


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Obama NSS To Drop Preemption

The Gates’ Pentagon will make significant changes to its National Security Strategy, dropping: the Bush administration’s controversial concept of preemptive attack, also known as preventive force; the idea of a “war” on terror; and the identification of Islamists as the root of terror. The Obama administration is to issue its first NSS soon so we asked Abraham Sofaer at Sanford University’s Hoover Institution to offer a glimpse of what the differences are likely to be from the Bush administration and just how important they will be in guiding the administration’s actions. Sofaer concludes that the Gates’ Pentagon will make significant changes to the language used. Read on to find out if he thinks the Obama administration’s actions will change much.


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Gates Pushes Arms Export Fixes

UPDATED: Link To Gates Speech; He Calls For New Export Legislation

Higher walls around fewer things. That is the new approach on arms exports that Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn advocated last week before a gathering organized by the Aerospace Industries Association. Lynn knew his audience. AIA, pushed hard by the big primes who depend for much of their profits on foreign sales, has nagged and worried and cajoled every administration since I started covering defense in 1997 to get them to loosen the slow and negative grip that the State Department has had on arms export licenses. And Lynn’s boss, Robert Gates, is scheduled to deliver a Tuesday address on the topic to the Business Executives for National Security.


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Did Obama Get Nuke Review Right?

The Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review strikes bold new policy ground, scrapping MIRVs, formally eschewing first strike and creating a unique category of nuclear targets — rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. So we asked some of Washington’s top nuclear and defense experts if the White House made the right choices. It’s all part of our new, vibrant commentary section we call The Tank, which can be read at our parent website, Military​.com Here’s the question we asked: “Did the Obama administration strike the right balance between nonproliferation, the threat of nuclear weapons and the calculus of conventional versus nuclear power”?


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How Much Will JSF Cost?

When the Pentagon’s top buyer appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, most observers expected Ash Carter to tell lawmakers just how much each F-35 costs and how much the plane is likely to cost over time. That didn’t happen. Winslow Wheeler, a bipartisan conagreassional defense budget expert now at the Center for Defense Information, penned a detailed analysis and commentary picking apart the Pentagon’s numbers and their underlying assumptions. Winslow’s commentary follows.