- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2012

A Washington think tank founded by President Obama’s first Pentagon policy chief has issued a report criticizing the administration’s defense budget, which the think tank’s founder played a role in developing.

Michele Flournoy co-founded the Center for New American Security in 2007, then became undersecretary of defense for policy in 2009. She left that post in February after helping Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta put together the fiscal 2013 defense budget.

Ms. Flournoy rejoined the think tank as a member of the board of directors and is mentioned in national security circles as a candidate for defense secretary in a second Obama term if Mr. Panetta leaves.

The Center for New American Security report released last week is pointedly critical of the Panetta plan, saying it does not go far enough in consolidating missions and functions, or in cutting back big weapons systems.

“The Pentagon still has not enacted the types of reforms that we believe are necessary to sustain U.S. military pre-eminence into the future,” says the report, written by four think-tank scholars.

“Too many [Department of Defense] structures, processes, programs and operational concepts are legacies of the past, which create unnecessary redundancies, waste valuable resources and encourage unproductive competition among the services, rather than cooperation. These practices are no longer acceptable in the current fiscal environment.”

The report could give some insight into Ms. Flournoy’s thinking should she return to the Pentagon next year.
Responding to an inquiry for Ms. Flournoy’s comment, Sara Conneighton, the center’s spokeswoman, said: “This report only reflects the thinking of the four co-authors.”

The report, “Sustainable Pre-Eminence: Reforming the U.S. Military at a Time of Strategic Change,” was written by retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, along with Nora Bensahel, Matthew Irvine and Travis Sharp.

Deeper defense cuts

As output from a Democrat-leaning think tank, the report is notable for how often it disagrees with the Panetta defense budget.

Where Mr. Panetta calls for continuing the procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, the Center for New American Security report calls for deep cuts in the Air Force and Navy purchases.

It says the Air Force should slash procurement from 1,763 planes to as few as 1,000, and the Navy should halve its purchase of 369 F-35Cs, which it calls flawed, and keep purchasing the F-18 Hornet.

“Due to its short range, the F-35C requires aircraft carriers to get dangerously close to enemy coasts or necessitates frequent aerial refueling,” the report says.

“While external fuel tanks can extend the F-35C’s range, such tanks compromise its stealth and thereby sacrifice an essential attribute. By buying fewer F-35s more quickly, the Navy will revitalize its strike fleet sooner.”

Shrinking the F-35 procurement would free up more money to invest in what might be the Navy’s future - the X-47 unmanned combat drone being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp., the report says.

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