I would like you to join me in a little game of looking sideways (to the UK today) and looking forward (2020s) at what I see as not chickens coming home to roost, but vultures.
Just to have a sound foundation; for source documentation we are going to use the best magazine your money can buy, The Economist, and some comments by VADM David Dorsett, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6) and Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) from last week. We'll get to him later.
First let's look at the fundamental underpinnings of our defense budget - not not strategy - MONEY.
From the latest issue of The Economist,
Mr Obama’s budget reveals a road-map to fiscal catastrophe. At no point over the coming decade will the deficit be below 3.6% of GDP; and after 2018, it starts rising again. The cuts the president has proposed are comically insufficient: a budget freeze on non-security discretionary spending, which amounts to only about 17% of the entire $3.8 trillion budget; and a toothless deficit commission (a better version has already been killed by obstructive Republicans in Congress) whose recommendations will doubtless be ignored.Note the right side of that graph. 2020. Keep that in mind.
This will cost about £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) over the next three years. Some £280m of it will come from the Treasury, which has already provided £14 billion from its reserves to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lion’s share, however, will be found by raiding other parts of the overstretched defence budget, with planned cuts that would realise around £1.5 billion over three years.Read that again. Look at those dollars you P-3/P-8 Bubbas .... because it parallels something said last week in San Diego about "..if you had to, where would you find a couple of $ billion."
This amounts to more than trimming fat (by, for example, slashing the number of civil servants at the Ministry of Defence); solid muscle is to be sliced into as well. The Nimrod surveillance aircraft, one of which exploded over Afghanistan in 2006 because of a fuel leak, will be retired by March. The introduction of the new model, the Nimrod MRA4, will be delayed. This means that, at a time of greater Russian underwater activity, there will be a gap in anti-submarine surveillance to protect Britain’s own nuclear-armed subs. One of four Harrier squadrons is being lost and the rest are to be moved out of RAF Cottesmore, which will be closed. This could reduce still further training on Britain’s aircraft carriers. The loss of a minesweeper, at a time of rising tension in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear programme, was questioned by opposition MPs. Army training “not required for operations”, such as tank manoeuvres, will be reduced.
This is an unusually brave move by a defence secretary who was widely derided as second-rate when he was appointed in June, the fourth man in the job in four years. But whoever takes charge after next year’s general election will need to be braver still. Britain’s plans to buy new military equipment have long been unaffordable. Successive ministers have tried to balance the books by short-term savings (such as delaying or scaling back new equipment) that incur long-term costs. This has created a growing “bow-wave” of unfunded commitments that may finally break when an overdue Strategic Defence Review is held after the election.
"Legacy ISR systems ..."When you fold that into the previous discussions about unmanned ISR in the panel discussion - there can be only one area he is talking about in a USN context - P-3/EP-3 and the upcoming P-8/EP-8 program.