Rumors Fly in Advance of USA’s 2011 Budget
Reuters reports that draft FY 2011 budget documents show the Pentagon targeting at least 7 programs for cancellation. Nothing is final yet, and the Pentagon will not comment, but here’s the rundown.
Two of those programs are familiar. One is the F-35’s alternate-engine F-136 sub-program. The other is the C-17. The USAF has been trying to cancel production of this heavy transport plane for years, but lack of faith in the Pentagon’s mobility requirements studies, and frequent testimony that airlift into theater is a bottleneck, have led Congress to add funds to the final military budget year after year. Those efforts have had an export spinoff as well, as open production lines have allowed new orders from Australia (4), Britain (3 more), Canada (4), NATO (3), Qatar (2), and The UAE (6), with India expressing interest of its own (10) in late 2009. FY 2011 seems set to give the Department of Defense another attempt to end the program, which is currently set to go out of production at the end of FY 2012.
Other programs Reuters marks for the chopping block include:
The CG (X) follow-on cruiser, which was initially supposed to replace the aging Reagan-era CG-47 Ticonderoga Class with a larger version of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class, before becoming the subject of resolutions from Congress requiring that it be nuclear powered. Stretched and modified DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, whose 9,000t weight places them close to cruiser size anyway, are expected to replace it, while modernization efforts stretch the life of the Ticonderoga Class. The effect of a CG (X) cancellation on related programs like the AMDR dual-band radar is not yet certain.
The replacement for the Navy’s EP-3 Aries II electronic intercept planes may be canceled. This was originally a joint program called the Aerial Common Sensor, but that effort was canceled in 2006. Boeing was reportedly offering a 737-based SIGINT/ELINT aircraft instead, which would offer some fleet commonality with the new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. No replacement solution has been specified, though advanced variants of the RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV can carry limited electronic intercept payloads.
On the IT front, a Pentagon human resources system that has reportedly attracted over $500 million in funding over 10 years, with “little to show and limited prospects,” may be about to have those prospects end. Northrop Grumman is reported as the contractor.
In space, the NPOESS program for a polar-orbiting weather satellite could be in trouble if the Pentagon ends its cooperation with the Department of Commerce, per Reuters’ report. The satellite has been plagued by significant technical issues, cost overruns, and delays.
On the flip side, Reuters also describes the potential cancellation of a satellite program that sounds like the Alternate InfraRed Satellite System. AIRSS/ 3GIRS was launched as a search for cheaper alternatives to the massively over budget and late SBIRS-High program, which aims to detect enemy missiles launches in their early stages.
UPDATE: All of these reports proved true once the FY 2011 budget was released, though that budget does contain $400 million in funding for NPOESS.