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US Defense Dept shuffles self

Obama 'disarms America'

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday outlined a sweeping set of changes to the Department of Defense's budget that he described "will profoundly reform how this department does business".

The changes cut many a congressperson's pet project, shuffle billions out of some programs and into others, and thoroughly reorganize and reprioritize the US's warfighting capabilities.

Among Gates' proposals are the following:

  • Continue working on the electronics and communications elements of the Army's $159bn Future Combat Systems, but put the $87bn vehicle component on hold until "we ... re-evaluate the requirements, technology, and approach - and then re-launch the Army's vehicle modernization program, including a competitive bidding process."
  • Cap the much-maligned, over-budget F-22 Raptor fighter-aircraft fleet at 187.
  • Increase purchases of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Force fighter, up to an eventual fleet size of 2,443.
  • Eliminate the $13bn VH-71 Kestrel presidential helicopter fleet, which is six years behind schedule.
  • Kill the $26bn Transformational Satellite Communications System and instead beef up the Milstar 3 Advanced Extremely High Frequency system with the addition of two more satellites.
  • Delay the Navy's next-generation cruiser, the stealthy CG-X.
  • Increase purchases of the Navy's high-speed Littoral Combat Ship from two to three ships in 2010, with the eventual fleet to number 55.
  • Kill off the unproven Multiple Kill Vehicle missile-defense system.
  • Increase support for the missile-toting Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), used frequently in Iraq and now Afghanistan, by 62 per cent.
  • Increase the number of the Navy's Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) ships from two to four.
  • Add $700m to field more force-protection anti-ballistic missile systems, including the Theatre High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) systems.
  • Terminate the Air Force Combat Search and Rescue X (CSAR-X) helicopter program.
  • Cancel the second airborne laser (ABL) prototype aircraft because the program "has significant affordability and technology problems and the program's proposed operational role is highly questionable."
  • Renegotiate contracts to build the planned three DDG-1000 low-radar-profile destroyers - and if the contracts can't be fixed, build only one "prototype."

In his remarks, Gates said that he had "consulted closely with the president" and that the chairman and vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff were in complete accord with his recommendations.

He didn't mention, of course, those pork-hungry congressfolks - one of whom, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying: "I cannot believe what I heard today. President Obama is disarming America."

Now the real war begins. ®

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