Magazine article National Defense

Program Terminations Invariably Have Unintended Consequences

Magazine article National Defense

Program Terminations Invariably Have Unintended Consequences

Article excerpt

Much of the current debate surrounding recent defense budget decisions misses some important points.

One of the most controversial decisions was to end the F-22 fighter program at 187 aircraft - only four more aircraft than the Bush administration had recommended. Some pundits, defense intellectuals and even government officials have contended that the F-22 is a Cold War weapon that is not needed for today's world.

They also point out that the F-22 hasn't been used in Iraq or Afghanistan. Presumably that proves their point, although it ignores the fact that many of the weapons in the nation's arsenal - submarines, nuclear weapons, ICBMs, to name a few - also haven't been used in these conflicts. Nevertheless, few people are rushing to declare these are obsolete weapons and advocate their elimination. Similar arguments can be made for other budget decisions as well.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he supports the need for a full spectrum capability for U.S. forces. He also notes that the United States is fighting two wars and needs to concentrate for now on winning those two. And that's fair.

So the recent budget shakeup can be seen as resource decisions based on available funding and the priority demands of the current conflicts. Whether it's the F-22, CSAR-X, Future Combat Systems, future bomber or even the presidential helicopter, these program cancellations can be viewed as decisions where the risk of termination or delay is deemed acceptable, given all the other demands for U.S. forces.

All the criticism about Cold War weapons is way off the mark however. The next conflict the United States will face is unlikely to be like the one we now face, if history is any guide. And if the threat encountered includes a highly integrated air defense system - with next-generation surface-to-air missiles and advanced fighters - the F-22 will be a weapon of choice.

Another important question in all of this is the impact of these decisions on the industrial base. To state an obvious truth, the U.S. industrial base has to be able to meet the needs of the nation's forces for world-class weapons systems. The U.S. advantage on the battlefield is based on three factors: The quality of its recruits, the quality of its systems and the quality of its training. We don't depend upon numbers to dominate. To underwrite this capability, the industrial base has to be able to deliver leading edge technology. Currently, no other nation approaches the United States in the high-end integration of components into advanced weapons systems.

To say U. …

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