Monday, April 6, 2009

Gates Lowers Boom

There's no bigger news today than what the SECDEF had to say about what he thinks DOD needs ... and what it doesn't. I'll make a couple of comments about the possible energy implications of the Gate's recommendations, and leave you to formulate your own.

First of all, this statement speaks volumes about bringing more responsible practices to the DOD budgeting process:
Many of these programs have been funded in the past by supplementals.  We must move away from the ad hoc funding of long-term commitments. 
Secondly, Christian Lowe at DefenseTech pulled out this chestnut which came towards the end of Gate's statement, confirming his commitment to re-balance expenditures with additional weight applied to personnel and our current conflicts:
... 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 under invested and potentially vulnerable.
Some of the platform program highlights were:
  • Killing Army FCS and AF Future Bomber
  • Capping F-22's at 187 and C-17's at 205
  • Building out the F-35 to a future target over 2,000.
  • Boosting Predator UAV prodution
His only direct comment about energy came as a nit re: FCS, saying its vehicles' lower weight and better fuel efficiency seemed to miss the point of recent counter insurgency lessons, where the heavy and heavily armored MRAP vehicles have had success. Overall, there's going to be more money spent on people and less on platforms. That's an energy use pro or a con depending on whether you think existing (and aging) platforms get more out of a gallon of J-P8 than would their more high tech successors. For me, for now, it's a wash.  

Congress may balk at much of this, but I do think there's a chance that Gates' emphasis on more responsible budgeting and less reliance on supplementals may create a friendly environment for better understanding of energy demand and its consequences via metrics. Now, if he'll just appoint the Director for Operational Energy we can get started ...

Photo: DOD

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