Military Resists Weapons Cuts

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More fascinating news on the military budget front. The Wall Street Journal reports today (page A1) that the Air Force is going to cut 30,000 to 40,000 personnel over the next decade in order to save some of its big-ticket weapons programs:

To stay within its expected budget, the Air Force is planning to cut at least 30,000, and perhaps as many as 40,000, uniformed personnel, civilians and contractor-support staff through fiscal 2011, military officials said. The exact composition of the cuts isn’t known, though their thrust is clear: “This is one way to pay the bills without messing around with our weapons programs,” said one official involved in the Air Force budget.

It looks like the Air Force will use that money to keep both the Joint Strike Fighter program—a costly purchase that was once called “unexecutable” by the GAO—along with a system of “missile-warning satellites” built by Lockheed that has been years late and costing “more than three times as much as its initial $3 billion budget.” Both programs were under fire from the Pentagon but it seems the Air Force managed to deflect the axe by going after personnel instead. And yes, in case anyone was wondering, “the shift is good news for the nation’s major defense contractors.” As I recall, about a month ago, the Army proposed something similar in response to the Pentagon’s demands for $11.7 billion in cuts from them: the service offered to reduce its force structure, at a time when the Army is already stretched thin, rather than touch its own procurement budget.

Now perhaps someone knows better than I, and surely there are a lot of ins and outs involved here, but it sure looks like defense contracts are dictating the type of military we have, rather than the other way around…

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