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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Surviving Pentagon Programs Appear Safe, For Now

The Defense Department likely has cut or canceled all of the major costly programs it believes are too expensive or fail to meet current military needs, says Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s comptroller.
It’s unlikely, he says, that service brass and contractors will see the wholesale ax-wielding that has chopped through Pentagon programs during the past two years. “We’ve weeded out those programs,” Hale said Feb. 16 following his briefing at Aviation Week’s Aerospace & Defense Technology and Requirements conference in Washington.
Now the focus will be on making sure the surviving programs deliver as promised and anticipated. “We need to focus on our business operations,” Hale says. “We’ll continue to look for ways to cut down our support costs.”
However,Hale cautions, the Pentagon and civilian leadership are on course for a reality check in the next decade, when some major programs—such as the next-generation bomber or the next ballistic missile submarine, SSBN(X), will have to be funded and built. The SSBN(X) fleet, for example, could cost more than $110 billion to buy, according to some estimates. The Navy is looking for a lead ship in fiscal 2019 (Aerospace DAILY, Dec. 8, 2010).
“We’re heading for a crunch in the 2020s,” Hale says. “The president and defense secretary will have to make to make hard choices and it will depend on world situations.” The trick now, he says, is to build the foundations for programs to give coming administrations options.

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