Pentagon’s Wish List Is All About Buildings, Training, and Aircraft

Army, Navy, and Air Force fight for different pieces of budget pie.

Air Force officials want to attach an advanced surveillance system called Gorgon Stare to Reaper drones, like the one featured below, which fly over Afghanistan. But a new internal report concluded that Gorgon Stare has so many problems that it shouldn't be deployed until they're fixed.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 20, 2014, 1 a.m.

Pentagon of­fi­cials have said time and time again that they are play­ing by the rules this year, sub­mit­ting a budget re­quest that is in line with con­gres­sion­al caps.

Ex­cept for one tiny de­tail: They want an ex­tra $26 bil­lion.

The re­quest for ad­di­tion­al money is part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “Op­por­tun­ity, Growth and Se­cur­ity Ini­ti­at­ive” for the 2015 fisc­al year — roughly half of which is slated to go to the Pentagon — that would be paid for through a mix of tax and spend­ing re­forms. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel told Con­gress earli­er this month that the fund­ing is “to try to buy back some of the read­i­ness and mod­ern­iz­a­tion that we’ve lost over the last two years be­cause of the huge ab­rupt cuts” in­cluded in the se­quester.

But the De­fense De­part­ment should brace for an up­hill fight to get what it wants. House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Buck McK­eon told Hagel and oth­er top of­fi­cials that he was not “pay­ing at­ten­tion” to the pro­spect of the ex­tra money “be­cause I think that’s in the realm of ‘it would be won­der­ful, but it’s not go­ing to hap­pen.’ “

(Re­lated: A Tale of Two Wish Lists)

And though the Pentagon’s full wish list hasn’t been made pub­lic yet, we’ve roun­ded up the de­part­ment’s ma­jor asks:

The Army

A big part of the Army’s ex­tra fund­ing re­quest goes to­ward train­ing — at a cost of $1.8 bil­lion — and boost­ing base and fa­cil­ity main­ten­ance, which would cost about $1.6 bil­lion. But the Army also wants to buy ad­di­tion­al air­craft, in­clud­ing 26 Apache heli­copters at a total cost of $600 mil­lion and 28 Black­hawk heli­copters that would cost an­oth­er $500 mil­lion.

The ex­tra air­craft are part of a mu­sic­al-chairs-like shift ex­pec­ted to take place in light of a tight­er budget. The Army’s Guard will be giv­ing up its Apaches to the Army’s act­ive-duty com­pon­ent, and in turn be get­ting the act­ive-duty com­pon­ent’s cur­rent Black­hawks, which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Mar­tin De­mp­sey said earli­er this month “will provide tre­mend­ous cap­ab­il­it­ies with­in the home states,” in­clud­ing when Guard mem­bers help dur­ing nat­ur­al-dis­aster re­cov­ery.

The Navy

The Navy’s largest re­quest is fo­cused squarely on its build­ings, with the ser­vice ask­ing for $2.3 bil­lion to keep its fa­cil­it­ies up to spec.

The ex­tra fund­ing would also be used to help com­pensate for the Navy’s de­cision to scale back its pur­chases of the Po­s­eidon air­craft. The Navy is re­du­cing its ex­pec­ted buy between 2015 and 2018 from 56 of the air­craft to 49. But Con­gress could help pre­vent that re­duc­tion by ap­prov­ing the Navy’s re­quest to use $1.1 bil­lion to pay for ad­di­tion­al Po­s­eidon air­craft. The mari­time plane can be used to hunt sub­mar­ines, to gath­er in­tel­li­gence, or — as they cur­rently are — to try to find a miss­ing plane.

The Navy also wants an ad­di­tion­al three C-40 air­craft, of­ten used to trans­port cargo, and an E-2D Hawkeye, used to track long-range threats. But it’s un­clear at the mo­ment how much of the Pentagon’s total re­quest these planes would make up.

The Air Force

Sim­il­ar to the Navy, the Air Force wants more up­keep and con­struc­tion at its fa­cil­it­ies. The ser­vice is ask­ing for $1.6 bil­lion for fa­cil­it­ies main­ten­ance and re­pair, and an­oth­er $1.4 bil­lion for con­struc­tion.

But of­fi­cials are also hop­ing to use $1.1 bil­lion to buy 10 ad­di­tion­al C-130 air­craft. The planes were fre­quently used for cargo trans­port­a­tion, in Afgh­anistan, and they are part of the Air Force’s push to boost its pres­ence in Europe in the wake of Rus­sia’s in­cur­sion in­to and an­nex­a­tion of Crimea. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, told a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee last week that the Air Force would be send­ing a squad­ron of C-130s to Po­land for a train­ing mis­sion.

They’re also hop­ing to get a few more eyes in the sky through a boost in un­manned air­craft. The Air Force is ask­ing for 12 Reap­er planes at a cost of ap­prox­im­ately $200 mil­lion.

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