Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

No Block 60 F-16s for U.S. Air Force

In light of the recent purchase by the United Arab Emirates of 80 Block 60 F-16 fighter jets, there has been speculation that the U.S. Air Force would consider buying some of these top-of the-line aircraft from Lockheed Martin Corporation. The Block 60 version features an advanced radar and an electronic warfare package that U.S. Air Force F-16s do not have.

A senior Air Force official recently dismissed such rumors. "We don't have plans to buy Block 60 aircraft," the official told an industry conference. Future F-16 buys by the service include 10 Block 50 F-16s in 2001, and possibly 20 more during the next five years.

Russian Military Spending Going Up?

To begin modernizing its decaying armed forces, the Russian government has proposed a 50 percent increase in military procurement.

"But whether that proposal materializes remains to be seen," said Stephen R. Sestanovich, U.S. ambassador at large to the states that once made up the Soviet Union.

"First, it has to run the gauntlet of the Duma," he said. The Duma-or Russian parliament-is still heavily influenced by Communists and frequently defeats government proposals.

It remains to be seen, he said, how the Duma will get along with Russia's newly elected president, Vladimir V Putin. Will the Duma be cowed into submission, or not?

Army-a 'Pro-Wheel Bias?'

A major military vehicle manufacturer recently charged that the Army artificially downgraded the performance requirements for a new "interim armored vehicle" because it wanted to ensure both tracked and wheeled vehicles could meet those requirements.

A top Army procurement official discounted such accusations during an industry conference.

"Our requirement [decisions] have tremendous analytical support and are not arbitrary," he said. In obvious frustration, the official groused:

"In the past, we've been criticized for being pro-tracks, and for not considering wheels ... Now, we are considering wheels, and we are criticized."

That means, he added, "that we probably have it about right."

Future of the U.S. Industry

Asked whether a future Gore administration would take action to address financial problems in the defense industry, the vice president's national security advisor, Leon S. Fuerth, said that Al Gore "understands the industrial base has to be kept busy doing things" so production lines are not shut down.

But Gore also believes the "nature of the defense industrial base has changed" from essentially smokestack industries to a sector that relies heavily on commercial technology.

The defense industrial base, as Gore sees it, is made up of, "assemblies and dis-assemblies of knowledge and products."

The question that remains to be answered, Fuerth said, is: "How adept are we going to be in drawing from the commercial sector?"

Fuerth said he did not have a "clear answer" on what role the traditional military laboratories and research centers would have under Gore's vision of a commercially-oriented defense industrial base.

"It's an interesting question," he said. "We recognize that we've got an issue.

Al Gore on Defense

Vice President Al Gore believes the Pentagon's budget today is in the "right zone" to adequately meet national security needs, said White House advisor Leon S. Fuerth. He counsels the vice president on national security affairs.

Addressing reporters questions on Gore's stance on various defense issues, Fuerth said that the United States has ample financial resources to up defense spending if necessary. But, currently, there is no such need, he suggested.

Gore does not believe the nation's security necessarily is enhanced "by mechanically increasing the size of the defense budget," said Fuerth.

"You have to invest in the struggle of other countries to develop and to grow. …