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Air Force Academy Spirit

Gates presents defense budget recommendations

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, (AFPN) – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the future of the F-22, the F-35 and the Air Force Combat Search and Rescue X helicopter are involved in his budget recommendations during a Pentagon press conference Monday.

The secretary said he included his experiences in national security to make the decisions.

To start, Secretary Gates plans to significantly restructure the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.

“We will retain and accelerate the initial increment of the program to spin out technology enhancements to all combat brigades,” he said.

But he said there are unanswered questions about the program’s vehicle design strategy.

“I am also concerned that, despite some adjustments, the FCS vehicles – where lower weight, higher-fuel efficiency and greater informational awareness are expected to compensate for less armor – do not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close-quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

The current vehicle program, developed in fiscal 2000, does not include the recent $25 billion investment in the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles that have saved so many lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Secretary Gates also noted problems with the current fee structure, which he said gives the government little leverage to promote cost efficiency.

“Because the vehicle part of the FCS program is currently estimated to cost over $87 billion, I believe we must have more confidence in the program strategy, requirements and maturity of the technologies before proceeding further,” he said. “Accordingly, I will recommend that we cancel the vehicle component of the current FCS program, re-evaluate the requirements, technology and approach, and then re-launch the Army’s vehicle modernization program, including a competitive bidding process.”

The Army needs a vehicle modernization program to meet the needs of the full spectrum of conflict.

“But because of its size and importance, we must get the acquisition right, even at the cost of delay,” the secretary said.

Secretary Gates recommended halting the F-22 Raptor procurement at 187, and investing instead in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The secretary also would like to end other under-performing programs, such as the VH-71 presidential helicopter.

“This program was originally designed to provide 23 helicopters to support the president at a cost of $6.5 billion,” he said. “Today, the program is estimated to cost over $13 billion, has fallen six years behind schedule, and runs the risk of not delivering the requested capability.”

Secretary Gates said the military will develop options in fiscal 2011 for a follow-on program.

The secretary also would like to terminate the Air Force Combat Search and Rescue X helicopter program. The program has a troubled acquisition history and raises the question of whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution with single-purpose aircraft.

“We will take a fresh look at the requirement behind this program and develop a more sustainable approach,” he said.

Secretary Gates said he is recommending an end to the $26 billion transformational satellite program, and instead would like to purchase two more advanced, extremely high frequency satellites as alternatives.

Turning to missile defense, he recommended restructuring the program to focus on the rogue state and theater missile threat, meaning the United States will not increase the number of ground-based interceptors in Alaska.

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