Gates Proposes Cuts To Several Major Weapons Programs

05/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended halting production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined a "fundamental overhaul" to defense acquisition, the Associated Press reports.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended halting production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined deep cuts to many of the military's biggest weapons programs.

The department must ensure it has the right programs and money to "fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years to come, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks," Gates said as he revealed details of his budget for the next fiscal year.

The promised emphasis on budget paring is a reversal from the Bush years, which included a doubling of the Pentagon's spending since 2001. Spending on tanks, fighter planes, ships, missiles and other weapons accounted for about a third of all defense spending last year. But Gates noted more money will be needed in areas such as personnel as the Army and Marines expand the size of their forces. [...]

Production of the F-22 fighter jet, which cost $140 million apiece, would be halted at 187. Plans to build a new helicopter for the president and a helicopter to rescue downed pilots would be canceled. A new communications satellite would be scrapped and the program for a new Air Force transport plane would be ended.

Some of the Pentagon's most expensive programs would also be scaled back. The Army's $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program would lose its armored vehicles. Plans to build a shield to defend against missile attacks by rogue states would also be scaled back.

Yet some programs would grow. Gates proposed speeding up production of the F-35 fighter jet, which could end up costing $1 trillion to manufacture and maintain 2,443 planes. The military would buy more speedy ships that can operate close in to land. And more money would be spent outfitting special forces troops that can hunt down insurgents. [...]

The Government Accountability Office reported last week that 96 of the Pentagon's biggest weapons contracts were over budget by a "staggering" figure of $296 billion.

A bill in Congress would require the Pentagon to do a better job of making sure proposed weapons are affordable and perform the way they should before the military spends big sums on them. The Defense Department has already adjusted its acquisitions policy to achieve some of those goals.

Congress is expected to push back hard against the cuts, fearing lost defense contractor jobs.

Gates anticipated some criticism. "Some will say I am too focused on the wars we are in and not enough on future threats," he said. "But, it is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk - or, in effect, to 'run up the score' in a capability where the United States is already dominant - is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take."

Wired's Noah Shachtman describes the plan as "the Defense Secretary trying to shake the defense establishment free of the Cold War, finally."

And on the Huffington Post, National Security Network analyst Max Bergmann writes, "The budget laid out by Gates gives a clear indication that the Obama administration is serious about finally shedding the legacy of the Cold War and building a military that is suitable for the 21st century. In fact, this budget closely resembles what many progressives have been calling for on defense over the last few years."

UPDATE: The Hill notes that Gates' budget also means no new helicopter for President Obama:

President Obama will continue flying in a stripped-down Marine One helicopter that matches the tough economic times.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended that the controversial $13 billion program to develop a supped-up helicopter be canceled -- at least for now.

Gates said at a Pentagon press conference that he is recommending the termination of the new Marine One program, whose costs escalated from an initially estimated $6.5 billion to $13 billion.

Technology in the new helicopter geared toward keeping the president secure and allowing him to perform his duties uninterrupted while in the air contributed to the cost of the helicopter, which also was to include a small, functional kitchen and a bathroom.