Home » Budget Industry » DEPSECDEF Work Cautions Trump Team Against Growing Military Size Over Capability

DEPSECDEF Work Cautions Trump Team Against Growing Military Size Over Capability

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work speaks during the Future Strategy Forum 2016 at the Arleigh Burke Theater in Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 2016. DoD Photo

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work speaks during the Future Strategy Forum 2016 at the Arleigh Burke Theater in Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 2016. DoD Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The deputy secretary of defense told the incoming Trump administration that repealing the 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps would be a good start for helping the military but that additional money would likely only fill in budget holes rather than buy more ships and planes.

Bob Work, speaking Monday at the Future Strategy Forum at the United States Navy Memorial, said that even as much as $88 billion a year in additional defense spending would simply fill in “holes” in the budget rather than grow the fleet, and he advised against buying more platforms and people before these holes are addressed.

Walking through his math, Work said the five-year Future Years Defense Program includes a “$107-billion gamble” of Defense Department spending above current BCA limits, assuming the spending caps would be lifted. That comes out to about $21 billion a year.

“That’s the first thing we’re counting on. If we don’t get that $21 billion a year above BCA caps, then we will start cutting U.S. Navy ships and airplanes because we won’t have any other choice of what to do,” Work said.

Next, the current defense budget has $30 billion a year of base budget spending included in the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is not subject to BCA limits, as a way to get around the spending caps. That spending – including the entirety of the European Reassurance Initiative – covers enduring requirements that will need to be put back into the base budget as soon as possible.

Third, from about Fiscal Year 2022 until 2043 the Pentagon will spend about $17 billion a year on recapitalizing the nuclear triad.

“If you tell us we will pay for it out of our topline, then we will cut $17 billion of something else, be it conventional (deterrence), or being more efficient, or whatever it is, we’ll cut $17 billion a year,” Work said.

And finally, Work said there’s about $20 billion in risk the fleet is taking from not properly funding maintenance, munitions procurement, facilities repairs and more that has been cut, scaled back or postponed to keep within BCA spending caps.

“If I went out to any fleet commander and said, hey, what do you think about maintenance (spending levels)? Well, I don’t really like maintenance. What do you think about our munitions inventories? Man, I don’t really like that either,” Work said.
“And so I would estimate that there’s probably another $20 billion a year to fix the holes that we’ve dug. … I can state with certainty as the [chief operating officer] of this great department that at this resource level our forces are too big. Why? Because we have taken risk in Army modernization, we’ve taken risk in munitions, we’ve taken risk in facilities modernization. But with the stress on the force, we can’t go lower, so we’re holding the force structure and we’re taking this risk. I would say it would probably take $20 billion a year to fill that risk in.”

So, he concluded, it would take about $88 billion a year to continue on with current modernization plans and current operating plans without today’s budget risk.

“That doesn’t buy you an extra ship, that doesn’t buy you an extra airplane, that doesn’t buy you an extra solider or sailor or airman or Marine,” he said.
“That just gets you where you need to be, fills in the hole.”

Work said he met with the transition team recently to go over the Third Offset Strategy and strategic planning efforts within the Pentagon, though he declined to say how the Trump team responded.

“All we did was say this is the way we looked at the problem, and I don’t really want to say anything about the conversations we had on what they might be thinking,” he said.

President-elect Donald Trump released few specific policy proposals for defense and acquisition in particular during the election season, but he did say in a September speech that he wanted to increase force structure and move towards a 350-ship Navy. Work repeatedly cautioned against moving too quickly to expand the military and said instead the services needed to make sure they had the right tools to deal with the current and future operating environment.

“I’ll tell you right now, if I had $20 billion a year right now, I wouldn’t buy more force structure. I would really focus on cyber vulnerabilities, making sure the C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) grid is resilient, can withstand repeated assault,” Work said.
“I’m much more of a capabilities guys right now than I am a size guy. I know we’ve had this conversation over a long period of time: I’d like to have both – if we had enough money, man, that would be great. … There’s a lot of things we would want to fix before I’d say let’s start growing the size of the force.”

  • The Plague

    “I’ll tell you right now, if I had $20 billion a year right now, I
    wouldn’t buy more force structure. I would really focus on cyber
    vulnerabilities, making sure the C4I grid is resilient, can withstand repeated
    assault,” – Translation : I would rather buy vaguely defined Bull$hit, than anything concrete. Plus, my Bolshie handlers in Silicon Valley can’t deliver either “force structure” or munitions. They only got “C4I” – gunk to sell, but they can’t even deliver that unless the requirements are sufficiently diluted.

    • Horn

      I don’t see anything wrong with what he said. Training, maintenance, cyber, and 1-for-1 force replacement would be my priorities as well. What good is having an extra ship when it’s not manned properly, its escort is in port for repairs, and there aren’t enough weapons to fill the hold.

      • The Plague

        He was not advocating for more training, maintenance, or munitions. He brought those into the picture but just fudged over them. He was for any incremental budget increase to be blown on that vague pseudo-deliverable called “cyber”.

      • Curtis Conway

        “1-for-1 force replacement” . . . the force is already too small to maintain presence missions in the COCOMs. Forget about having to exert power for any period of time, anywhere on the planet.

        • old guy

          The problem, I suggest,is which forces need to be replaced or augmented.

          • Joe Freeman

            That’s about as good a one sentence summary as I’ve seen.

          • Curtis Conway

            The Army upgrade programs look good to me so far with their guided projectiles, new armor, enhance anti-ship missile capabilities (MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATacMS)), New networks, and the M1A new active protection system, except for the M1A’s engine that should have been upgraded to the LV100-5 almost a decade ago.

            The Marines upgrades are well in hand, and those new vehicles will work well.

            The USAF upgrade programs for the Legacy Gen 4 fighter force was too long coming with the AESA radar upgrade and Gen-5 to Gen-4 connectivity, and the USAF can no longer vacillate about those upgrades because F-35 is not coming on in numbers that fast. The USAF is going to have to get off the dime about the CAS replacement program, and the OA-X and A-X should BOTH be dual-engine/multi-engine aircraft.

            The USN needs ships for presence and they must be capable. The LCS is not capable and they want to make a significant part of the force LCS. What does that tell you about the planners, and their plan? The USS American (LHA-6) “Lightening Carriers” with their F-35Bs is a bright light that has arrived. We need more without well decks. I propose half the force. The Ship to Shore Connector problem is mitigated by the Mobile Basing concept and its extra SSC (new LCACs) units.

            Most of all, the Administration simply must not give the Unified Commanders responsibilities, and then not support them. The BMD mission set is the highest priority. A decent lower cost Presence Small Surface Combatant is my next priority. Obviously we have to support our friends in Europe, and the Pacific by honoring our treaty obligations, and not letting bullies push the less capable smaller countries around by taking their resources and food (fish). Last, the Arctic cannot be ignored any longer. Icebreakers must come sooner rather than later. All of the USCG’s 12 High Endurance Cutters must be replaced one-for-one, and USCG manpower accounts bolstered to support that eventuality. AND that NSC platform that is already all-ocean capable, provides a lot more room and displacement for upgrades. How about a new frigate?

            Just my 2ȼ

          • Joe Freeman

            Enjoyed your post. showed a lot of understanding and thought. Particularly about the Arctic. The Russians are rolling out nuclear powered icebreakers right now. They aren’t doing this without a reason, given their limited budget and resources.

          • Curtis Conway

            AMEN! We had better wake up. AND . . . I didn’t even mention a Joint EWCOM Unified Combatant Commander.

          • Joe Freeman

            It seems like we repeat our mistakes and history. We climb to the top of the hill, then go to sleep, or the politicians cut R&D and the military for social engineering.

            Problem is, we wouldn’t come back from the modern day equivalent of another Pearl Harbor. The hit would be too devastating and anyway we’ve shut down most of our manufacturing capability.

            We were3 going to be a “service” economy remember? Only problem is, turns out 3rd world countries can do service industries cheaper too.

  • Lorenzo Rodriguez

    We should remember a lesson taught by WWII.
    During the war the Germans designed and built a medium tank that would be considered the best in the world until 1954. This tank was defeated on the battlefield by the British tank, the Cromwell. This was accomplished by the simple fact that for every Panther the Germans could field, the Allies could field ten Cromwells.
    You can have the most technologically advanced and capable weapons systems on the planet but if you don’t have enough that you can’t afford to lose a single one, you will lose.

    “God is on the side of the big battalions”.

    • Marauder 2048

      The Panther and Cromwell were fielded in about equal numbers.

    • Horn

      I think you mean the M4 Sherman.

      • old guy

        You are correct. The many varieties of the M-4s with welded hulls, in-line and radial engines and a rough 5 speed transmission, involute or lever sprung bogies, overlay armor and the 75 or 76 mm gun outnumbered the others by about 5X.

    • old guy

      What you all might not know is that the German panzers and the Russian T-34s were based on a torsion-bar suspended design rejected by the US Army. The designer was a naval architect whose name has slipped my mind.

      • Marauder 2048

        T-34s and some of the British cruiser tanks used Christie Suspensions.
        The Panther used a double torsion bar suspension.
        Both were abandoned after the war.

        • old guy

          That’s the guy, Walter J. Christie, a battleship designer. I went in at the very end of the war and drove M-24s and M-26s, both with torsion bar suspensions. My MOS was 733. I saw Panthers, Tigers and Royal Tigers. All with torsion bars. I don’t know of a double. VWs have singles.

    • Curtis Conway

      The ‘measures’ vs ‘counter-measures’ battle goes on!

  • b2

    I would ask Mr. Work, the defense genius, why he has fielded expensive ships that don’t work, allowed uncompleted carriers to languish, continue unalloyed with a questionable F-35abc, eviscerated the US Army, and let readiness for USMC, USN and USAF strike fighters go to hell, among others? So we can invest in more cyber warfare stuff? No LtCol/secretary, we need more stuff (ships/planes that work) and warriors) and more men/women warriors ready to fight with that stuff! You have failed by trying to reshape the military according to Obama the community organizer, at the .ppt level and have left us in a miserable spot because of your zero risk mentality and consensus decision making. Get over to a defense university hideout and start writing op-eds…go away.

  • Ed L

    Cyber attacks, make sure the fleet can still use flag hoist, signal lights. sextant, standimeter. lots of keep it simple stuff while you still have the high tech gagets.

  • KillerClownfromOuterspace

    Size is a capability last I checked.

    • Joe Freeman

      You are correct. That is how the Germans and Japanese were beaten.
      They had excellent tech in many areas. But they didn’t have enough of it. One famous Panzer tank commander (I forget his name) said: “Our tanks can kill 10 enemy tanks for each one of ours. Unfortunately there is always an 11th one.

      • KillerClownfromOuterspace

        Correct. But what he is really defending is the spending on both personnel and systems/equipment.

    • Curtis Conway

      What . . . the Communist mantra of “Quantity has a quality all its own”(?) We can’t meet force level requirements of the Unified Commanders today, so the crazies are running wild about the planet, and we have little or no recourse, except wait until it hits the headlines and go to war. That’s a plan?

  • draeger24

    Work….hit the road. You and Mabus have done enough damage. Your silence about Mabus’s ridiculous shenanigans is duplicitous.

  • Subsailor

    So he’s admitting that the Obama Administration gutted the military over the past 8 years.


    Funny that there was still plenty of funding for gender-reassignment and all of the other social-programs for the DoD during this period, while jets get cannibalized for parts and warships have to pass equipment off from an inbound ship to the one going out because there’s not enough to equip all of them properly.

    At least the early signals from the Trump Administration point to fiscal discipline combined with a sense of what is needed for a robust military, versus a social-engineering experiment and make-work programs for civilian workers and contractors.

    • old guy

      Horse feathers. When I became Dir. S&T Development I got a hard nosed crew of accountants in and managed to trim just under 9% out of cost flow. Apply that to the DOD budget and PREZ TRUMP will be awash with dough, Goodbye sweetheart underbid contracts with generous change provisions.

      • Joe Freeman

        Hi old guy. We meet again. You’re almost certainly right. A report just surfaced, buried by the Pentagon concerning $125 billion of waste. I presume that was annually for the period studied. Which means that if you can eliminate or save around 70 % of that wastage, you’ve got the 88 billion dollar a year hole covered.

        • old guy

          The program I had was to develop a high speed ship of an unique design and test at least two versions in four years.
          We had under 125 million to pull it off. i was able to hire a team of 20 non bureaucrats and stuck as close as we could to firm fixed price contracts. The needed Cost+ contracts were let with l;ittle room for changes. RESULT:
          1. We came in 12 million under cost
          2. 4 months ahead of time, and
          3. 15% faster than the target speed.
          It is the ONLY program that I know of that got a lead sentence in the GAO report that, “NO descrepencies could be found in the cost, schedule or performance of this program.”All others have “MAJOR” inserted after “NO”.
          Of course, the Navy cancelled the program.

          • Joe Freeman

            Very damn impressive. In my second job out of Harvard Business School I worked for AeroJet General. This was during the time that they had a contract to develop the TOW missile for launching from Cobra helicopters.
            I was a financial analyst. I got assigned to the project right after I was hired and the contract was in trouble. This was for two reasons as it developed. First: The Army had specified a maximum weight for the attachment/launcher. This had resulted in a design had been accepted by the Army of a launcher that was composed of steel, magnesium and aluminium. You cannot weld these dissimilar metals. Consequently some joins were being accomplished with epoxy glue. Second: The Army has specified a certain width, that resulted in the launcher being tucked very close to the fuselage of the chopper. Plans had been submitted, and accepted by the project managing officer of the Army.
            At the point I was called in a preliminary test at White Sands had resulted in a test firing which blew the tail rotor off the helicopter, which meant that the chopper crew had had a VERY bad day. ( One died in the ensuing crash). The Army was (understandably) upset.
            Review of the plans with the chief engineer brought me to the following conclusions: First: The design was insufficiently robust for field use. By the time a PFC dropped the launcher or otherwise mishandled it, it could result in distortion of the launcher with obvious consequences (blowing a tail rotor off the helicopter). Worse: The dissimilar metals had different coefficients of expansion which under extreme temp conditions could result in a slight warpage or deflection of the launcher. In either or both cases, deflection of only a few thousands of an inch at certain points would be sufficient to cause the backblast from the rocket to go into the tail rotor. Second:There was no discernible reason for the maximum width provision provision, i.e. no reason why the launcher had to be so close to the fuselage of the helicopter. Third: There was no discernible reason why the Army project manager was refusing to relax the specification on width, or minor design changes.
            Meeting with the Army colonel who was the Army project manager revealed he reason why no changes were allowed. He was determined to bring the project in on time and on budget. Changes would delay the project while the Army reviewed them (it would take months) and he didn’t want his copybook blotted. Additionally, This was a RUSH project and there were significant penalties in the contract for schedule slippage of production units. So AeroJet didn’t want delays either.
            HOWEVER: The engineer stated that if we eliminated the aluminum by substituting more magnesium in the structure, it would allow us to use more steel which would result in a more robust design with virtually no chance of warping or distortion due to mishandling treatment or temp conditions in the field. Review of the contract specifications revealed that this was not considered a change requiring extensive review. The Army project officer was skittish, but agreed that this MIGHT not cause a full review. Aerojet was reluctant because of the increased cost (due to increased use of magnesium). The numbers were big enough (as I recall the Army wanted several thousand units) to put the overall contract into a loss position for Aerojet, although far less than penalties.
            What was finally worked out was that Aerojet would eat the loss on the first block of units if the Army would agree to relaxing the weight spec by around 4 pounds in subsequent blocks, and allow a design change which would change the launcher attach points such that the launcher was around 2 inches further out from the fuselage. This would result in a more robust design with less magnesium and more steel and a greater safety margin as well for the chopper crews. By not making the weight and width changes till block 2, this would allow the Army project manager sufficient time to get the changes (which were insignificant anyway) approved.
            The problem originated with Aerojet having submitted a set of specifications that were unrealistic in the real world. In effect, Aerojet had painted itself into a corner at the beginning. It was compounded by a review process in the Army bureaucracy that was unbelievably time consuming and cumbersome. The final layer of complexity was added by the Army project managing officer who was extremely reluctant to allow any changes at all to even be proposed to his superiors for fear of what it might do to his career.

          • old guy

            I have seen it many times, in many contexts:
            my career, my service, my country (in that order)

          • Joe Freeman

            So have I.

            That’s one reason why I rather like Mattis for SecDef. He made 4 star in the Marine Corp. Then he was summarily fired by Obama for telling the truth in blunt terms.

            So he left the military and started teaching at Stanford. New career, and doing well.

            Called back for his political and military knowledge.

            My bet is that he will continue to tell the truth, and if he’s not listened to, quit, and go back to his teaching.

            He’s a man who can succeed at whatever he chooses to do. He doesn’t NEED to make his next star. He already did that.

          • old guy

            Mattis isn’t the only one Prez B.O. fought with. Remember Gen, Jim Jones, who started out as his military adviser, but quit when he found out that the totally incompetent Valerie Jarrett could change his findings. He had been Commandant of the M.C. and Commander of the NATO military. Too bad the Donald hasn’t tapped him.

    • Joe Freeman

      There’s enough blame to go around. As I recall the Republicans and the Democrats agreed to the sequestration scheme.

      The effect was to hollow out the US military. The stupid bastards saw it happening, the generals and admirals who complained were retired or shuffled off, and it was business as usual.

      The Republicans, led byTrump and Mattis need to fix it. Mattis is not a yes man. If he stays, its getting fixed. If he leaves, because he’s a man of integrity then it’s business as usual on the political front, and we should learn to speak Chines and Russian.

      • old guy

        Contrary to popular propaganda, the Sequestration saved billions.

        • Joe Freeman

          Yes, it prevented spending billions. Not an argument about that.

          The problem I have with it is that it hollowed out the combat arms of the US military AND at a time when Obama, with his pivot to Asia CREATED a need for a very strong military exactly at a time when due to sequestration and problems in the middle East and in Europe, we don’t have the capacity to deal with them.

          Expanding a need for anything, when you already have your hands full, and have agreed and engineered a situation where you cannot expand your resources to deal with the increased need strikes me as exceptionally stupid.

  • Joe Freeman

    Fist off, there’s a story in the news that a Pentagon study revealed 125 BILLION in waste. I assume, but don’t know that that was for some fiscal period, perhaps a year, the year studied. It wouldn’t surprise me if 125 billion out of around 650 billion was wasted or fluff. If it is 125 billion a year wasted, that’s good, because that covers the 88 billion a year that you need to fill in the holes. I won’t assume that you can save ALL of the 125 billion a year being wasted, no one ever eliminates ALL the waste. So lets just say that Mattis and a damn good team of managers can save and redirect 88 billion of the 125 billion being wasted. That’s saving and redirecting around 72% of the total waste. That should be doable.

    NEXT, let’s assume that the BDA caps are lifted, something the Republicans wanted to do for the military, but the Democrats refused to do. What are you going to do next? Well, several things. You start with cyber security especially for our R&D facilities so the Chinese can steal the plans for everything we design. You make the companies that are doing the work invest in protecting what they’re selling you. You pass a law requiring the public utility companies to contribute to a pool that hardens the power grid, the investment banks and banks to harden the financial grid. nsa, oni, and CIA oversee, check, test, and run penetration attempts on their efforts. The military concentrates on hardening the satellite systems for military apps such as communications and GPS until they can’t be hackedd or jammed. That’s a sizeable task .
    You DELAY acquiring 13 billion dollar warships such as super carriers and super destroyers. They CANNOT be defended adequately until you successfully finish developing railgun and laser technology as well as better faster guidance systems and faster anti- missile missiles to combat super and hypersonic missile swarms. You also work on crash developing anti torpedo defense to protect your ships.
    You either build low cost specialized warships, or pull out of mothballs and refit platforms making them missile heavy launch platforms themselves for air defense, bombardment, and anti sub work. These are fitted with higher speed surface to surface and surface to air missiles to defend your current super carriers and super destroyers such as Brahmos and Meteor, and heavy, long range hi supersonic or hypersonic cruise missiles that have tac nuke capability/fuel air/explosive capabilities. These platforms do not have to be terribly sophisticated, or expensive since their launch loads can be managed by the radars and guidance systems of the high end ships you do have in a task force. But they bolster the high end ships which can rapidly be shot out in an engagement. As a plus some of the moth balled ships are heavy gun ships. Tech already exists for guided munitions, longer range munitions/guns etc. You retrofit this capability as well. 2 or 3 of the New Jersey class battle ships are still around. These ships were fast (30 knots plus) could absorb punishment, and are large enough to carry a large number of the heavier longer range missiles being discussed. The littoral class warships can also be repurposed along this line, since supposedly they are designed for different packages to be installed and as matters currently stand they cannot defend themselves adequately against the Chinese and Russian missile and gun heavy platforms anyway.
    The Air Force either puts an upgraded F-22 or F23 back into production with an eye toward having an adequate number of air superiority fighters or begins a high speed development program of such a fighter. The object of the exercise is to be able to effectively counter the Su35 heavy long range fighters and other 5th/6TH gen fighters under development by our adversaries. When we developed the F15 and F-16 the object of the exercise was to have air superiority fighters. And we did. Why was that lesson forgotten AGAIN, and a move to a one plane does everything for everybody approach taken? IT DOESN’T WORK. You wind up with a plane that does nothing extremely well, is overly expensive, overly complicated, and is not AN AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER. Upgrades of the F-15 and F16 are continued meanwhile. The air force studies the actual usefulness of the current B-52 leg of the nuclear triad. Is it even survivable in the current threat environment, or would the money be better spent in mobile ballistic and hypersonic ballistic/cruise nuclear missile launch programs such as the Chinese and Russians use. Remember, we couldn’t FIND the Scud launchers that Hussein were using and that was in the desert.
    Close air support for the Army should become a responsibility for the Army. The Air Force has, in the past 50 years produced precisely 1 aircraft of the type suitable for ground support, the Warthog. It hated the plane. The ground troops loved it. The Army cannot afford a new main battle tank. However it has many many Abrms chassis, and even M60 chassis that can be refitted with better defensive measures, and with long range anti tank missile capability. Longer range gun and munition capability also exists and can be retrofitted. More varied and effective munitions such as theromo baric rounds can be added, or included in the missile load out. The same is true of our APCs.
    Air lift capability should be massivly beffed up for the Marines and Army. The idea that you can successfully punch through convoys to resupply and/or beef up NATO with ship convoys may be obsolete. as it presently stands. unless better anti missile and anti-submarine and anti torpedo defense can be rapidly deployed.
    NATO should be completely overhauled as well, if it’s going to continue to exist. NATO should be able to repel Russian attacks and fight a war on RUSSIAN soil rather than the concept of the last 50 years which is to ABSORB a Russian attack and fight a war on the NATO countries soil which will devastate the NATO countries, while waiting for massive reinforcements from the US by ship which may not arrive in time.
    In the Pacific, if we’re serious, and other Asian countries are serous about preventing a Chinese hegemony in the area we must form a NATO like alliance with countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, Australia, and possibly the Philippines and other countries. These countries must be able to defend themselves against Chinese and North Korean nuclear threats. This means a joint effort to install the most advanced missile defenses currently in existence to protect these countries among other things.

    These changes and developments are just a few of the things that need to occur in our military. The new SecDef and his subordinates will have a busy time of it. congress should arrange for the money to available. The military should avoid wasting 125 billion a year, rather than trying to cover up the fact. If these two things happen, our military will be come far stronger than it is today.

  • Huldah1776

    Sounds like a member of the Nefarious Plot team. Do all you can to destroy the hearts and souls of the mighty young by not training, not giving them the best equipment, not giving them the support they need to do the jobs they ask to do for our security. Prayers for the Marine pilot whose jet went down, and his family, brothers, friends.

  • RandSec

    Just because a military has a cost does not mean that it cannot seek income. If it is true that other countries depend on the US military, they should be helping to fund the US military. That income should be accounted against military expenses, and not just tossed into the general fund.