Proposed US defense budget suggests cutting the Ford aircraft carrier and B1 bombers for lasers, more submarines and more new B-21 stealth bombers

Center for New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, has put forward a proposed ten year military budget with more ships, more submarines, more readiness, more stealth aircraft and more emerging military technology (railguns, combat lasers) using a different allocation of resources.

• Restore readiness (flying hours, depot maintenance).
• Invest in emerging technologies (cyber, robotics, directed energy, human performance, etc.).
• Field a diverse high-low mix of forces to cover the full range of missions most effectively and efficiently

The three experts, Jerry Hendrix, Paul Scharre and Elbridge Colby, have instead put together a report that uses a notional budget that implements a 2 percent increase over the 2017 budget to shape the U.S. military for the next 10 years.

“We have a military that’s in great shape to defeat Saddam Hussein’s army from the first Gulf War,” Colby said, adding that the Pentagon has focused on smaller numbers but invested in more high-tech pieces of equipment with mixed success. Under the proposed budget, the Navy would increase from 272 to 345 ships over 10 years, and the Air Force would gain more than 120 aircraft.

To fix the current balance, Hendrix, Scharre and Colby’s report suggests that the Pentagon invest in what they call a “high-low mix.” This means that the Pentagon invests in both high-tech pieces of equipment, such as the yet-to-be built B-21 long-range bomber, but also buys low-cost single-engine prop planes such as the A-29 Super Tucano to deal with threats in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

To pay for this rebalancing, the report proposes canceling the Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier and America-class amphibious assault ship production lines. The Ford line is estimated to cost more than $40 billion for the three proposed carriers, and the first ship in the class has already encountered numerous construction delays. Also proposed in the report is a projected $55 billion in savings over 10 years by cutting 5 percent of the Pentagon’s civilian workforce and 8,000 contractors.

Their proposed budget would ensure that the Navy still has 10 carriers by the end of the decade; it’s just that the ships would have a new role, acting more as prepositioned operating bases around the world

Proposed U.S. Air Force
• Increased:
– Overall Air Force TACAIR inventory by +180 aircraft by using a high-low mix.
– Stealthy bombers by +44% with an increased B-21 buy.
– Developed new stealthy uninhabited combat air vehicle (UCAV).
– Additional KC-130J tankers for distributed operations inside A2/AD areas.
• Procured advanced munitions (JASSM-ER, SDB II, LRASM, MALD-J, new long-range air-to-air missile, collaborative munitions, upgraded PNT).
• Invested in new technologies – high-energy lasers, high-powered microwave weapons (CHAMP), and distributed aerial swarms (Gremlins).
• Preserved airlift and non-stealthy uninhabited ISR.
• Funded investments by:
– Reducing non-stealthy bombers (retired 60 B-1 bombers).
– Trimming F-35A quantities by 60 aircraft over 10 years.

Increased military technology research and development

• Increased R&D spending by $24 billion over 10 years to capitalize on emerging technologies:
– Advanced weapons: railgun, hypersonics, high-energy lasers
– Electronic warfare, cyber, networking, PNT
– Advanced undersea and aerospace techonlogies
– Artificial intelligence and human performance
• Increased DARPA agency funding.

Management Efficiencies
• Saved $55B over 10 years by cutting 5% of DOD civilian workforce and 8,000 contractors.
• Cuts made possible by HQ de-layering, automation of jobs, and process efficiencies.
• Trimmed additional $27B over 10 years by initiating BRAC, eliminating commissary subsidies, and raising TRICARE fees.