Mark Collins – USAF Funding Woes, Esp. F-35, New Bomber

Further to this post,

F-35: Where’s the US Money? Plus Canada

USAF procurement funding problems are examined (note photo in article is actually of US Marines’ F-35Bs):

Air Force May Be Forced To ‘Defer Or Delay’ F-35, KC-Y; New Fund For LRSB?

WASHINGTON: The authoritative Congressional Research Service has just published a report asking the questions in the headline.

It’s a basic problem we’ve written about before. The Air Force faces a funding crunch in the next six years as the F-35 and the tanker programs ramp up. the B-3 (Long Range Strike Bomber) program gets rolling and the service keeps buying drones and C-130s.

As report author J.J. Gertler of CRS notes, “the four procurement programs (F-35A, KC-46, C-130, and RPA) account for 99% of the Air Force’s aircraft acquisition budget” in fiscal 2016. Add these weapons: the proposed T-X trainer, JSTARS recapitalization [more here, possible Bombardier airframe opportunity], Combat Rescue Helicopter and new Air Force Ones; and you’ve got one big wave. In fact, it may be a budget tsunami, but Gertler doest’t call it that — yet…

(Breaking D readers will remember that Frank Kendall, head of Pentagon acquisition, has said that the F-35 is no longer protected from budget depredations.)

Is the lifting of the Budget Control Act spending caps enough to fix things? It “does not necessarily offer sufficient relief to avoid program cuts or other funding approaches,” the CRS report finds.

So, then come the hard choices. Here are some of the decisions Gertler concludes may be necessary (He’s careful to note there may be other ways to fix things):
  •  Raising the Air Force topline (and/or the aviation modernization share);
  •  Pusharounds or reductions in Air Force programs and activities other than modernization;
  •  Reducing annual quantities of the F-35A;
  •  Further retarding the growth of R&D programs;
  •  Deferring the KC-Y follow-on tanker;
  •  Funding the long-range strike bomber (LRSB) through a non-Air Force budget.

…the fiscal 2017 budget is coming up and part of CRS’ job is to make sure its congressional masters can make decisions based on reason and facts. Now they have some. Whether they or the Air Force will pay much attention and act before the crunch comes is, at best, an open question.

(Shameless plug: Check the footnotes in the report!)

Relevant:

Long-Range Strike, or, New USAF Bomber: All-Singing, All-Dancing?
[note “Comments”]

F-35 Delays, Costs=New USAF F-16s or F-15s?

The Canadian Forces for their part, particularly the RCN, face their own procurement funding, er, challenges:

F-35 and Canadian Election: Liberals Loose With Fighter Costs

The Extravagant Lunacy of Building RCN and Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Canada

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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10 thoughts on “Mark Collins – USAF Funding Woes, Esp. F-35, New Bomber”

  1. Looks like Congress will approve 3 more F-35As for US for FY 2016 (started Oct. 1, 2015):

    “Congress Includes $572.7B for DoD in Spending Bill”

    Summaries of the omnibus states its $111 billion for procurement and upgrades includes 68 F-35 joint-strike fighters; in all $1.33 billion for 11 additional F-35s: six more for the Marine Corps, three more for the Air Force and two more F-35s for the Navy. The bill includes $1.01 billion for 12 more EA-18G Growlers and Super Hornets, and $80 million for four more MQ-9 Reaper aircraft…”
    http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/policy-budget/budget/2015/12/16/congress-includes-5727b-dod-spending-bill/77411080/

    Mark Collins

  2. More on USN F-35Cs–and Super Hornets–very interesting:

    ‘Carter Orders Navy to Build Fewer Ships, Spend More on Jets

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered U.S. Navy leaders to buy fewer ships so the service can spend more on jets such as the F-35 as well as munitions and upgraded systems for electronic warfare.

    “For the last several years, the Department of the Navy has overemphasized resources used to incrementally increase total ship numbers at the expense of critically needed investments in areas where our adversaries are not standing still, such as strike, ship survivability, electronic warfare and other capabilities,” Carter wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News that’s rare in its blunt rejection of a military service’s approach…

    Navy spokesman Commander William Marks said service officials were aware of Carter’s memo but “budget discussion are pre-decisional and it would inappropriate to discuss anything further until the FY 17 budget is finalized. ”..

    In the memo to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus…Carter directed the Navy to increase purchases over the five years of Lockheed’s F-35 and the F/A-18E/F made by Boeing Co. Thirty-one of the Navy’s version of the F-35 would be added over the Navy’s request…’
    http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-12-17/carter-orders-navy-to-build-fewer-ships-spend-more-on-jets

    Mark Collins

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