Published on 1 Aug 2005 by Aviation Week and Space Technology. Archived on 8 Aug 2005.
USAF fuel costs blowout cuts weapons research funding
by Amy Butler
The Pentagon is discovering it's not immune from the high gas prices that have overwhelmed taxpayers' cheque books and dampened summer travel plans across the U.S. Defense Dept. planners are now estimating fuel costs may add as much as $4 billion to what was already expected to be a shortfall of nearly $6 billion in Fiscal 2007 and each year following. This nearly doubles the predicted annual deficit of about $10 billion.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper says he cannot confirm the impact on the upcoming Fiscal 2007 budget, which goes to Congress in February, but it "is enough to be worried about." Because USAF operates the bulk of the Defence Dept.'s gas-guzzling aircraft, it generally consumes the largest amount of fuel. Meanwhile, the service is cutting back by $3 billion this fiscal year.
A slew of options to find funding for Fiscal 2007 and beyond are zipping through the Pentagon, including a significant retooling of the $245-billion Joint Strike Fighter program that would radically change USAF's buy and affect the plans of foreign partners. The Army and Marines supporting the Iraq occupation will also surely feel the effects.
Last October the Pcntagon revised its oil price estimate for Fiscal 2005 to $36.87 per barrel of crude, about 50% higher than the $24.44 projected earlier (A W&ST Dec. 6.2004. p.62). Pentagon spokeswoman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch acknowledges fuel cost has increased again since then. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries estimated last week the per barrel crude price, based on 11 oil varieties, at more than $52.
These numbers have bean counters at the Pentagon scrambling to pay its bills. As usual in the summer, analysts there are running through various scenarios in order to find the right programs to cut. Steven Kosiak, budget studies director at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says the Defense Dept. "has a serious plans-funding mismatch."
The operations and maintenance budget is unlikely to be cut because it is paying for activities abroad. But development and procurement programs are squarely in the budgeters' crosshairs. The Pentagon's civilian leadership has begun to float a proposal to kill the conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) portion of the V.35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, forcing USAF to buy the Navy's carrier version, according to Loren Thompson chief operating officer for the Washington-based Lexington Institute think tank. Thompson has also done some consulting work for Lockheed Martin, the JSF prime contractor. The Pentagon is planning to buy more than 2,400 JSFs, 1,763 of them for the Air Force.
The CTOL variant accounts for about 72% of the domestic buy. Terminating it would alter pricing for the entire program and could jeopardize relationships with partner countries. The Navy and Marines have also offered a proposal in the Quadrennial Defence Review to fly Air Force F-35s off of Navy carriers to access areas outside the reach of strike aircraft at land bases.
USAF', however, rejects both ideas. "We don't want the Navy version, because it costs about 38% more and the performance isn't what we'd like," Jumper says. Only an extreme situation, he adds, would require USAF to operate from a carrier. "The need to do that would be if somehow there wasn't enough volume in the Navy and Marine Corps to do the job. Now, I can't picture why that would be."
The Air Force's F/A-22 fighter, also built by Lockheed Martin, is up for further cuts, even after a December decision to trim the buy to 179, saving $10.4 billion, A recent study by the Project for Government Oversight suggests that scrapping the F/A-22 would free up $5 billion annually to reinvest in avionics and radar upgrades to existing fighters. The Army followed this approach when it cancelled the Comanche helicopter in favour of modernizing the remainder of its fleet.
The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High, the future constellation of missile early warning satellites, is also on the chopping block. Plans call for five geosynchronous satellites (for equal coverage around the globe and a spare) as well as two payloads on classified host satellites in highly elliptical orbit. However, one funding option scales back the geosynchronous satellites to two. Analysts and a Pentagon source say that is ill advised, as it would create a hole in early warning coverage, but it signals USAF to get the program in line. SBIRS High's cost has ballooned to about $10 billion from the initially estimated $4 billion.
USAPS E-10A intelligence-gathering aircraft is again up for a deep cut, the Pentagon source says. Last year. Air Force officials saved it at the 11th hour after some Pentagon civilians tried to cripple it in favor of the Space-Based Radar. The E-10A is crucial to USAF's efforts to field nonkinetic weapons, as it would carry a massive radar capable of disabling the electronics of attacking missiles (~AW&ST June 13, p. 92).
However, one financial analyst noted that $3-4 billion is a small fraction of the Defense Dept's expenses: $5.6 billion are spent each month on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With supplemental spending, the Pentagon's annual budget surpasses $500 billion. Still, the Pentagon is facing an increasing population of veterans in need of health care, expensive operations abroad and cost growth in major acquisition programs.
Дружище, когда вы принимаете чью-то помощь, довольствуйтесь тем, что вам дают, а не тем, что вы хотели бы взять. У меня, как и у всех, возможности ограниченные, но с вашей стороны попрекать меня их ограниченностью - черная неблагодарность.
Роберт Шекли, "Обмен разумов"