In Box

Five More Cuts

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's decision in May to eliminate the U.S. Army's Crusader artillery system could free up $9 billion in defense dollars. Here, defense analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution suggests a few more areas where cuts make sense:

1) The joint strike fighter: Estimated cost for the Big Enchilada of defense spending is $200 billion for nearly 3,000 stealthy airplanes for every service except the Army. Why put so much money into expensive airframes when smart munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles hold such promise? Instead, just buy a more modest number for the Air Force and Marines (perhaps 1,000 total) and make up the difference with planes like today’s F-16, get the Navy out of the program, and save at least $50 billion over the next 20 years.

2) The Air Force’s F-22 Raptor: Since more than $20 billion has been invested in this program, buying a modest number makes sense as a hedge against improved surface-to-air missiles and their associated radars and a possible future threat from the likes of China. But buying enough of these for a single war will do. The program can be cut by more than half, from over 300 to about 125 planes, with new F-15s making up the difference at a savings of $10 billion.

3) The Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey: Faster and longer range than helicopters, this controversial plane is of questionable dependability and not superior enough to helicopters to warrant buying 450 (including about 100 for the Air Force and Navy). Instead, buy it for long-range commando insertion and search-and-rescue missions, and view it largely as a prototype technology. Purchasing 150 V-22s and relying on advanced helicopter technology will give the Marines dependable troop transports more quickly, saving $10 billion.

4) Army helicopters: The Army is modifying its Apache helicopters to carry radar-guided "Hellfire" missiles and also developing a smaller scout–light attack helicopter known as the Comanche, for a total of more than 2,000 attack helicopters at an estimated cost of about $50 billion. That makes for five combat aircraft programs in the works in the U.S. military (including the joint strike fighter, F-22, and Navy F/A-18 E/F jets). A more selective approach by the Army would cut the number of its helicopters roughly in half and save $10 to 15 billion — an approach that makes more sense for a country already buying 3,500-plus combat jets.

5) The Navy’s Virginia-class attack submarine: Rather than purchase 30 of these highly expensive subs for $60 billion, the Navy should treat the sub as its "silver bullet" force, buying a dozen and making do with less expensive Los Angeles–class submarines to fill out the rest of its fleet. It could either refurbish existing Los Angeles–class subs or buy new ones, but either way, savings should be $15 billion.

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