Tag Archives: Congress

Of Defense and Deficits

Of Defense and Deficits

Proceedings, November 2012
To maintain their unique capabilities, the Sea Services must master the art of navigating budgets in the Age of Austerity.

SchuckF1Nov12_0

Under the authority of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and without congressional action, automatic across-the-board cuts—“sequestration”—will occur in the Department of Defense budget in January 2013. The likelihood and the consequences of this event are still uncertain, but projections by the Congressional Research Service suggest total cuts to the Defense budget in the vicinity of $500 billion over the next decade; similar cuts would be made in non-Defense spending. That this would be severe is not in doubt: Employment reductions from changes in equipment procurement in California alone are projected at nearly 126,000, with national changes in employment at more than 5.8 million. 2

Austerity budgets may prove to be the most challenging obstacle the Navy and Marine Corps have seen in a generation. Yet as painful as they may be, they must be faced. And successfully facing them begins with first developing an understanding of the current macroeconomic position of the United States, and ends with developing an effective budgetary strategy. Additionally, it will be critical to remember that Defense budgets do not exist in isolation. All actions and their costs must be gauged both against the entire federal budget as well as the larger U.S. macro-economy.

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Combating Cyber Warfare: The Alliance Between the Public and Private Sector

Combating Cyber Warfare: The Alliance Between the Public and Private Sector

The following was excerpted from the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2012 annual history conference “The History and Future Challenges of Cyber Power” at Alumni Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy on Oct. 16. 

The panel discussion focused on the cooperation between the public sector (the intelligence and military for the sake of this discussion) and a private sector that is often vulnerable to cyber warfare.

The segment was moderated by University of Maryland School of Public Policy Research Professor Dr. William Nolte, who reminded the audience just how much people are touched by computers and by extension potentially cyber warfare on a daily basis.

“I used to ask audiences like this, ‘How many of you have used a computer today?’” Nolte said. “And people caught on. The easier question is, ‘How many have not used a computer today,’ meaning how many of you have not driven a car, or in some cases turning on your stove? You use your iPhone certainly. And this event I think has really taken us all by storm.”

Participating in Nolte’s panel was Dr. Michael Warner, the command historian for U.S. Cyber Command of the U.S. Department of Defense. Warner’s claimed that he is the only practicing “trained historian” in this field and explained his role a historian.

“Federal historians are those people who have to say to the boss, ‘Sir, ma’am — the problem is actually much harder than you realize and it’s much more complicated, too,’” Warner said. “So on that cheery note, that may be why there are so few federal historians because that is our job to bring this unwelcomed news to people.”

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Navy, Marine Corps Reprogramming Clears Way for Nuclear Refuelings to Continue

Navy, Marine Corps Reprogramming Clears Way for Nuclear Refuelings to Continue

The future of certain Navy and Marine Corps programs remain in doubt while a temporary legislative funding measure takes effect on Monday. A little over a week ago, Congress approved a six-month spending package that will give the House and Senate until March of 2013 to decide how to meet the nation’s financial obligations, including funding for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The so-called Continuing Resolutions (CR), allow the government to remain open and operating but they also prevent DoD from starting any new programs and require funding levels for current programs to remain essentially the same. For the DoD overall, the funding continuation means a half-percent increase in the topline, but restrictions in the bill hit the Navy and Marine Corps especially hard. Shipbuilding programs could stall and multi-year buys of fighter and vertical lift aircraft could be put off, driving up costs and impacting readiness.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Station Norfolk and begins a towing operation to Northrop Grumman Newport News Ship Building for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in 2009. U.S. Navy Photo.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Station Norfolk and begins a towing operation to Northrop Grumman Newport News Ship Building for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in 2009. U.S. Navy Photo.

But the Navy’s two biggest issues in the CR were funding for a pair of aircraft carrier midlife maintenance projects called RCOHs or Refueling and Complex Overhaul. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is scheduled to finish its three-year, $2.5 billion rebuild in June 2013, but the CR funded only half of the expected costs. USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is scheduled to start its downtime next year as well, but new programs are specifically prohibited under the CR.

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Pending Congressional Budget Measure Could Hurt Navy and Marines

Pending Congressional Budget Measure Could Hurt Navy and Marines

The Federal government’s fiscal year comes to an end on September 30, and for the sixth straight time, lawmakers will need more time to figure out how they will pay the bills for next year. This is the ninth time in 11 years that Congress has looked to a temporary spending measure, called a Continuing Resolution (CR), to delay decisions on the nation’s funding priorities, 56 times in all since 2001. Last year’s budget debate required seven CRs and took until April to resolve. In August, House and Senate leaders agreed to a longer term approach, announcing that Congress would move forward with a six month package, pushing-off the decision on specific funding levels until after elections are over and a new Congress is sworn-in.

While the CR will allow the federal government to continue spending money into the new fiscal year, it also puts limitations on how that money can be spent, and those limits are especially acute for the Defense Department (DoD). DoD has enjoyed more than a decade of increasing budget top-lines and used those funds to address the changing needs of a force at war, but lawmakers were poised to cut defense spending next year for the first time since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the CR, approved last week by the House and set for a vote this week in the Senate, will boost the base budget by more than a half-percent to $519 billion. Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) would be funded at proposed fiscal year 2013 levels, a reduction of $26.5 billion.

As with any spending measure, there are winners and losers with the CR. Though Congress will provide DoD with more money than previously expected, the Department will lose some of its flexibility in spending it. The Navy is hit particularly hard by funding restrictions and policy caveats that could impact current operations, future readiness and long-term planning priorities.

USS Theodore Roosevelt undergoing a complex overhaul in 2011 at Newport News, Va. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt undergoing a complex overhaul in 2011 at Newport News, Va. U.S. Navy Photo

At the top of the priority list for the sea service is the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The 26-year old ship is in the final stages of a three-year-long maintenance and modernization period in Newport News, Virginia that the Navy calls a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH). By the time the TR sets back to sea in 2013, the ship will have new nuclear fuel in its two reactors, upgraded combat and communication systems throughout, and repairs will be made to the ship’s hull, mechanical and electrical systems to keep her viable until at least 2036. The process costs nearly $2.5 billion, but funding for the current phase will dry-up in less than 5 months unless Congress approves new spending for the work. So far, though, this year’s CR does not include funding to finish the overhaul.

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Opinion: Parochial Interests Threaten Biofuels

Opinion: Parochial Interests Threaten Biofuels

A wave strikes the side of to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on July,7.[U.S. Navy Photo]

A wave strikes the side of to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on July,7.
[U.S. Navy Photo]

The U.S. Navy kicked of its annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises last Friday and will use the world’s largest naval exhibition to test its concept for powering expeditionary operations on biofuels. A carrier strike group, dubbed the Great Green Fleet, is the culmination of several years of testing in the biofuels arena and will serve as the Navy’s first top-to-bottom test of a force that could go to war powered by alternative energies. But parochial interests in Congress threaten to undo the Navy’s progress on biofuels and undermine efforts to build a cost-competitive biofuels market.

When the House Armed Services Committee took up its annual debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2013, questions about the Navy’s biofuels program quickly came to the forefront. When the bill hit the House floor in May, two provisions had been added during markup of the bill by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX). Biofuels backers see the provisions as an attempt to undercut the Navy’s ambitious effort, which they contend hurts efforts to stabilize Defense Department fuel costs and offset DOD’s dependence on foreign fossil-based fuels.

The first provision, which is more symbolic than substantive, exempts DOD from the so-called Section 526 requirements contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The section requires government-purchased alternative fuels to have a lower greenhouse gas impact than current fossil fuels. DOD says it doesn’t need the waiver, but, within the biofuels industry, section 526 is seen as a levy holding back cheaper but more pollutant-intensive fuels like coal-to-liquid.

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Stolen Valor Still an Option

Stolen Valor Still an Option

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Xavier Alvarez

The oath taken on commissioning or enlisting in the armed forces, begins, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” In constitutional law classes at our military service academies, cadets and midshipmen are taught that in honoring that oath they may be called upon to fight and die to protect a citizen’s First Amendment right to burn the flag, preach hate or damn U.S. warfighters.

Last week, in a less melodramatic vein, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Alvarez that service members also may fight and die to protect the First Amendment rights of frauds who falsely claim military decorations for heroism. The Stolen Valor Act criminalized the act of falsely claiming to hold the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and Purple Heart, among other awards. With sad regularity, we hear of imposters claiming outrageous feats in combat that resulted in high decorations. Quickly recognized as pathetic liars by those of us with military backgrounds, an unknowing public, eager to honor heroes, embraces the liars. The 2005 Stolen Valor Act finally gave authorities the means to convict and imprison imposters. Dozens of convictions followed. Athough sentences were usually no more community service, at least a federal criminal conviction resulted.

Xavier Alvarez was a particularly bold liar and fraud, claiming to be a retired Marine officer wounded multiple times and awarded the Medal of Honor. In fact, he never served a day in uniform. Across the nation, many others who wove heroic fantasies for themselves have been honored in a variety of ways, but it was Alvarez whose 2010 conviction came before the Supreme Court.

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