Defense Potpourri #1
With a new administration and fresh national defense policies, continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tight defense budgets, there continue to be important daily developments in this area.
Under the heading “Defense Potpourri,” I plan to periodically summarize some of the most important and interesting news items, as long as there is interest.
AIR REFUELING TANKER CONTRACT
I have mentioned before that, after strong protests by Boeing, the huge, $35 billion air refueling tanker contract that was originally awarded to the international Northrop Grumman-EADS team was withdrawn last July and was to be recompeted. (EADS is the parent company of European aircraft manufacturer Airbus)
Some lawmakers had suggested that the contract be split between the two teams.
Well, yesterday U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates nixed the idea: “I think it’s bad public policy and I think it’s bad acquisition policy,” Gates said, “It would require the Air force to maintain two different logistics facilities – two different logistics trains – two different kinds of training” resulting in much higher costs.
Makes sense to me.
Presently the bidding for the entire contract should be reopened in the next couple of months, with a contract award scheduled for early 2010.
I have written extensively on the issue of honoring our fallen heroes when they come home to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
After deciding to open such ceremonies to media coverage, if the families consent, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made the next right decision, as I had hoped: The Pentagon will pay for the families of dead soldiers to travel to Dover, Del., to meet their remains.
“Should immediate family members wish to be present for the arrival of their fallen hero at Dover, and this can be done without unduly delaying the fallen’s return to his or her own hometown, we will facilitate that travel, and we will fund it,” Gates said yesterday.
According to Gates, the new policy’s “overriding principle is the decisions about media coverage should be made by those most affected: the families…For example, if there are several fallen troops arriving on the same flight, the media will be permitted to cover only the dignified transfer of individuals whose families have given permission.”
Yesterday, I wrote on Boeing’s unveiling of its new, “stealthy” F-15 Silent Eagle with various fifth-generation “add-ons,” and how this aircraft may pose a challenge to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II (The Joint Strike Fighter, JSF) in certain markets.
Well, today Lockheed Martin got some good news from Britain.
Britain announced the purchase of three Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft as part of its plans to continue in the JSF development partnership with Lockheed Martin (and several other countries), and to eventually purchase additional F-35s to replace its Harrier jets.
“By purchasing three aircraft for testing, we will secure access to the development of the program,” British Defense Secretary John Hutton said. Britain may agree to buy F-35s for two Royal Navy aircraft carriers scheduled to enter service in 2014 and 2016.” (Source: Washington Post)
The Netherlands is close to making a similar decision in the next few weeks.
On a related note, and as I have been posting, the possible loss of thousands of defense related jobs—should the Pentagon cut back on various defense procurements—has been a very sensitive factor and issue.
For example, one source claims that over 100,000 jobs will be lost if the Pentagon shuts down the Lockheed Martin F-22 production line.
According to Reuters:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will disregard possible job losses when deciding the fate of weapons programs and systems in the Pentagon’s 2010 budget, a spokesman said. “It’s not the responsibility of this building to worry about the economic impact of budgetary decisions,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters. “It’s the responsibility of the secretary and this building to provide recommendations to the president about what is in the best interest of our national security. And that is the advice he will give,” Morrell said. Some defense firms have highlighted the number of jobs they say depend on their big-ticket programs as they lobby against potential cuts in the budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins on Oct. 1 this year. (Source: Defense News)
OK, so it may not be the “responsibility of this building” to worry about the economic impact of budgetary decisions, but that “building” could at least keep such economic impacts in the back of “its” mind, especially during an economic crisis.
There had been reports that President Obama was considering billing veterans’ private insurance companies for the treatment at VA hospitals of combat-related injuries .
According to the Washington Post:
The proposal would have authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to charge private companies for treating injuries and other medical conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that are related to military service. The measure was intended to save VA about $530 million a year.
There has been a huge public outcry against such proposals.
Yesterday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president has “instructed that its consideration be dropped.”
“In considering the third-party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans,” Gibbs said. “However, the president listened to concerns raised by the [organization leaders] that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families’ ability to access health care.”
Under the “bigger picture,” Obama has proposed, in his fiscal year 2010 budget, a 15 percent increase to VA’s budget, from $97.7 billion this fiscal year to $112.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2009 on top of the $1.4 billion already set aside for VA projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Now, that’s good news for veterans.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner said this about the budget recommendations:
“I applaud President Obama’s budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs. After sixteen years on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am very encouraged that this outline is consistent with recommendations made by the veterans’ groups who co-author the Independent Budget. This has never happened in the 23-year history of the IB!”