- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

Incoming Pentagon officials have already begun discussing options for killing or curtailing major weapons systems, with the Joint Strike Fighter mentioned as a possible casualty, defense officials say.
The sources said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's transition team has sent "feelers" to Capitol Hill to gauge political opposition to canceling systems that create jobs in a number of states.
"The Bush team is being very smart," said one source close to the transition team. "They are seeking congressional advice as they talk through some of these programs. They are discreetly planting seeds and looking at alternatives."
In tentative discussions, Pentagon officials have broached the idea of killing the $250 billion Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a multipurpose jet designed for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. In return for the military branches' agreement, the Bush team would "make commitments" to the Marines' V-22 Osprey, the Navy's F-18 Super Hornet and the Air Force's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, one source said.
Another option being discussed is to delay production of the Navy's DD-21 stealth destroyer and redesign it for theater ballistic missile defense.
"There are discussions ongoing, but no decision has been made," the Defense source said.
Mr. Rumsfeld will present his first budget in February, for fiscal 2002, largely based on service request made during the Clinton administration's final year in office. But he will augment the request this spring, and sources say he would like to make a bold statement about his vision for the 1.37 million-member armed forces.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who won Senate confirmation on Saturday, has marching orders from President Bush to cancel some programs so the Pentagon may invest in tomorrow's weapons that promise to change the way wars are fought.
In his campaign's major speech on defense policy at The Citadel in September, Mr. Bush spoke of a "window of opportunity" that will allow the Pentagon to put money into technologies such as unmanned aircraft, light armor and the "arsenal ship," a stealthy vessel armed with long-range land-attack missiles.
"The real goal is to move beyond marginal improvements, to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies," Mr. Bush said. "To use this window of opportunity [is] to skip a generation of technology. This will require spending more and spending more wisely," he said.
On the table is nearly a half-trillion dollars in major weapons procurements. The problem for Mr. Bush is that each has a constituency of lawmakers, defense industry lobbyists and unions. The potential opposition is the reason the administration already is sending feelers to Congress.
"You've got a bit of 'Nixon goes to China,' " said Ivan Eland, a military analyst at the Cato Institute. "Bush is a Republican, and Republicans have the reputation of being stronger on defense. It may, in fact, be easier for him to cut weapons systems that aren't needed."
There are at least seven major procurements that Mr. Rumsfeld will scrutinize as part of a far-reaching review Mr. Bush wants. The defense secretary, who boasts a 25-year record of corporate innovation, will look at developing weapons, force structures, foreign deployments and the procurement process itself.
The systems most likely to get a close look: the Navy's DD21 stealth destroyer, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force F-22 stealth fighter, the Navy F-18 Super Hornet, the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey, the Army's Crusader artillery piece and the Comanche scout/light attack helicopter.
All told, the systems' long-range price tags top $475 billion.
"We need to guard against the perception that anything that is good for the defense industry is good for the troops," Mr. Eland said. "If Bush invests in training, quality of life and [research and development] for the future, that's good for the troops."
The Pentagon took a "procurement holiday" the past decade as its overall budget shrank to help wipe out the federal deficit. The decline, coupled with unprecedented wear and tear on equipment, has left an aging force. The Marines are still flying Vietnam-era helicopters. The average age of Air Force fighters is approaching 15 years.
The question arises: How can Bush-Rumsfeld modernize the force but kill some of the systems meant to replace old equipment?
John Hillen, a defense adviser to the Bush campaign, contends there is no way the Pentagon can modernize properly without killing some current systems.
"In my personal opinion, I do not see how you can continue to acquire the current upgrades on legacy systems such as the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter while at the same time transforming the force with leap-ahead technologies," Mr. Hillen said.
"There is simply not enough money, not even close, even with extravagant budget increases. In other words, a true transformation is going to require some hard choices when it comes to current programs in the pipeline over the next 10 years."
In his speech at The Citadel, Mr. Bush said he planned to buy some new weapons "necessary for current tasks." But the most important part of his plan will be to "replace existing programs with new technologies."
The rub will come if Mr. Bush asks Congress to affirm his decision to discard major programs. The F-22, for example, has the strong backing of lawmakers from Georgia, where Lockheed-Martin is assembling the first planes. A good share of DD-21 destroyers likely would be built in Mississippi, home state of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Mr. Lott is arguing for a bigger shipbuilding budget now, not 10 years down the road.
"I think it will be fascinating," a congressional defense aide said. "It will tell you who's running the Pentagon: Rumsfeld or the Joint Chiefs. Let's say they kill the V-22 and they make that recommendation to Congress. The Marines come over in the back door and say, 'Don't pay any attention.' If Rumsfeld doesn't have their heads on a platter, it's clear who's running the Pentagon."


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