CBO Report on America’s FY 2006 Defense Plans
An October 21, 2005 DID article offered detailed coverage of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that looked at various military transport options, including DARPA’s ultra-large WALRUS class airships.
The CBO also issued The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives: Summary Update for Fiscal Year 2006 recently [2005/10/17 version, PDF format]. This report looks at the long term cost implications of the current US military budget, compares FY 2006 proposals in each major area with an “evolutionary alternative” and a “transformational alternative” force mix, then assesses long term costs and risks under each scenario.
That report has just been updated, and DID offers both a link to the revised report, and a few pointers re: some highlights worth a closer look…
UPDATE: The CBO offers an update as of January 7, 2006: “The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives: Detailed Update for Fiscal Year 2006” [PDF format]. Some highlights, from DID’s point of view:
- Page 2, which clearly shows the majority of the USA’s defense budget tied up in personnel plus operations and maintenance, may be enlightening to some people who think it all goes to shiny new weapons. Not so.
- Page 10’s graph “Spending for the Military Medical System, by Category” is worth close attention, especially with respect to the “cost risk” projection. “Accrual payments for beneficiaries who are age 65 or older will make up more than 40 percent of the increase… by 2024, accrual payments will be more than twice as large in real terms… a total of nearly $23 billion.”
- Pages 16-22 cover the US ground vehicle situation, and projections around the Future Combat System and its impact on vehicle strength, costs, etc. Rising FCS costs may have created a serious disconect between the number of planned vehicles and the number that would actually be delivered.
- In the naval section, on page 31, CBO’s “evolutionary” alternative includes this: “The CVN-21 carrier program would be canceled; its replacement would be a large-deck conventionally powered aircraft carrier, equivalent in size to today’s existing conventional carriers of about 80,000 tons. Under the evolutionary alternative, the Navy would buy the first ship of that class in 2012.” It’s hard to see how requiring a new design and reviving technologies that haven’t been built for over 40 years is “evolutionary.” Sounds more like a recipe for trouble.
- Pages 43-47 cover Marine Corps plans for rotary (helicopter and tilt-rotor) aircraft under various scenarios, from an evolutionary scenario in which H-92s replace the MV-22 Osprey to the current “transformatonal” scenario. The CH-53X program, which was recently covered on DID, is also included in these projections.
- Pages 66-71 re: USA air tanker fleet. Their “evolutionary alternative” would upgrade current KC-135Es to KC-135R standard via re-engining and other refits, and defer purchases of new tankers until 2019.
Op/Ed: Overall DID Thoughts
Reports like this are useful in that they force consideration of alternatives. They do hit their limits, however, in that one must assume that the variant cases being proposed would be chosen as an option by the military. One wishes the military had to present these kinds of case plans, though perhaps based on different criteria than the CBO’s “proposed/ evolutionary/ transformational” framework. It would enhance the civic debates.
Finally, the effects of increasing average aircraft age in the US fleet under just about all scenarios really came through in a number of the sections. Definitely an issue to watch.