President Obama Delivers Election Year State of the Union

January 27, 2012

Government Relations Update - Defense

 

On Tuesday night President Obama delivered his third State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. The address primarily focused on jobs and the economy, but the President opened and closed with tributes to the U.S. military. He highlighted the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, and U.S. efforts in Libya as his top national security achievements in 2011. The President received enthusiastic bipartisan applause in the chamber for his position on relations with both Syria and Iran. With regard to Syria, he said “I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.” The President also affirmed that all options are on the table when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

During his address the President briefly mentioned the DOD’s new strategic guidance that calls for a shift in focus toward the Asia Pacific region, while continuing to maintain a strong influence in the Middle East. Regarding the new strategy, the President said it will ensure that the U.S. maintains the strongest military in the world, while also saving $500 billion dollars in the budget. He briefly spoke about his commitment to veteran’s affairs, proposing the creation of a Veterans’ Job Corps that will help communities hire veterans as firefighters and police officers. In addition, he touted the recent passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 that received bipartisan support from Congress, and provides tax credits to companies who hire military veterans.

DOD Releases First Details of FY13 Defense Budget Cuts

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Martin Dempsey, released the first details of the $525 billion FY13 defense budget, which outlines how the Pentagon plans to cut the statutorily required $487 billion in planned spending over the next ten years. The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated reductions of $487 billion over ten years (FY12-21) and $259 billion over five years (FY13-17). In addition to the $525 defense budget, the proposed budget provides $88 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO). The $525 billion budget (excluding OCO funding) is significantly lower than the administration’s budget last year, when $553 million was requested for DOD. Ultimately, a $531 billion dollar defense budget was enacted for FY12. Over the next five years, total U.S. defense spending (base and OCO funding) will drop by 22 percent from its high in 2010, after accounting for inflation. However, the proposed cuts in the FY13 budget and beyond come primarily from war-related funding, rather than the base defense budget, and reflect lower OCO budget levels.

The details of the Pentagon’s plan show a significant cut in military personnel and a shift toward a focus on smaller, more limited contingency operations. The Army and Marine Corps face the biggest cuts, with the Army shrinking from 570,000 to 490,000 troops, and the Marine Corps shrinking from 202,000 to 182,000 troops over the five-year budget plan. The budget plan also includes funding requests to support a 30 percent increase in unmanned aircraft.

The white paper released by DOD provides an overview of the Pentagon’s strategy and decisions with regard to some major programs, but lacks the specifics that will be seen only once the budget is officially released on February 13th. Included in programs highlighted, are budget cuts to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). The Global Hawk program is being terminated because DOD believes that the U-2 manned aircraft can provide comparable capabilities for less money. It is also cancelling humvee upgrades, and will instead continue to move forward with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). DOD’s plan slows the pace of shipbuilding and retires some existing ships. The Ohio Class Replacement submarine program (SSBNX) will be delayed by two years. The plan slips one Virginia Class submarine outside the future years plan and also increases cruise missile capabilities of future Virginia Class submarines. The plan retires seven cruisers early, reduces the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) by two, reduces the number of Joint High Speed Vehicles (JHSV) by eight and retires two smaller amphibious ships (LSD) early and moves their replacement outside of the budget plan.

Nominations for Four Key Defense Posts Announced

The President announced on Monday that he would make four nominations to key positions at DOD. He nominated Erin Conaton, the current undersecretary of the Air Force, as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; Frank Kendall III, who is currently serving in this position under acting status, as undersecretary for defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; James N. Miller, the principal deputy undersecretary for policy, as undersecretary of defense for policy; and Jessica Lynn Wright, the current deputy assistant secretary for manpower and personnel, as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. All four nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Quote of the Week

“To achieve these reductions, the President has abandoned the defense structure that has protected America for two generations; turning 100,000 Soldiers and Marines out of the force. To compensate for this loss, he will build on unmanned assets and Special Forces. To be clear, these asymmetric assets are a vital component in defending America; but they are insufficient to meet the manifold security challenges America faces.”

Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, reacting to the Obama Administration’s new defense strategy.

 

Notice: The purpose of this newsletter is to review the latest developments which are of interest to clients of Blank Rome. The information contained herein is abridged from legislation, court decisions, administrative rulings, and other sources and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.

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