US Foreign Policy

What We Bought: Defense Procurement from FY01 to FY10

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By Russell Rumaugh – As the congressional super committee grapples with the
problem of lowering the nation’s deficit and controlling its debt, defense budgets
have taken center stage.  Some have
argued that defense budgets cannot be cut, in part because a decade of war has
exhausted the military’s stock of equipment, forced the military to “defer”
investment in advanced equipment, and made it necessary to invest billions in
repairing and reconstituting its inventory. 
Yet  the military services have
spent $1 trillion over the past decade on procurement.

The Stimson Center’s
Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program released today a new
report – “What
We Bought: Defense Procurement, FY01-FY10,” – which analyzes this apparent
contradiction.  The report, by project
co-director Russell Rumbaugh, describes
in detail the substantial investment the military services have made in
modernizing, upgrading, and expanding their inventory of equipment since 2001.  As Rumbaugh put it: “We have not been
deferring investments; the services have used a trillion dollars to modernize
and improve our equipment inventory across the board.”

The report makes a valuable contribution to the continuing
debate about the defense budget and the need for budgetary discipline.  Rumbaugh’s report finds that each of the
military services significantly modernized their inventory.  As the report notes: “Each of the services has followed a different approach in
allocating its procurement funding, but they share a similar result of
successfully modernizing their forces, especially the major weapons programs
that constitute the heart of the services’ capabilities.”

As opposed to the “decade of neglect” that is the
conventional wisdom on defense modernization, the report analyzes the budget
decisions of the past decade to find the following:

  • Despite the cancellation of three major future
    acquisition programs, the Army actually modernized its forces, buying two new
    fleets of combat vehicles-Strykers and MRAPs, and upgrading virtually the
    entire inventory of its Bradley fighting
    vehicles and Abrams tanks to state-of-the-art digital technology and
    communications. The service also
    dramatically expanded its stocks of support vehicles and small arms. Its
    ability to modernize was substantially enhanced by the use of supplemental
    funding the service received because of the wars.
  • In contrast to the conventional wisdom that the
    Air Force inventory is aging due to neglect, the report points out the Air
    Force actually acquired the Defense
    Department’s two largest procurement programs in the past decade, the F-22
    fighter and C-17 cargo aircraft. The aging of the fighter fleet is not
    the result of neglect, but of a conscious choice the Air Force made to pursue
    high-end, expensive systems like the F-22. Moreover, although the Air
    Force does not like to point out this reality, it also expanded its air fleet
    by adding more than 350 unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft over the decade.
  • The report notes that the Navy’s ship
    acquisition plan was underfunded 10 years ago, but additional funding,
    provided in part because of the war, allowed the service to acquire virtually
    the entire shipbuilding plan over the decade.
    Additional funds also allowed the Navy to cover cost growth that grew out
    of design flaws in its shipbuilding plans, and provided the resources to start-and then cancel-systems not
    even in the Navy’s original plan.

The report provides a useful corrective to the current
debate, based on assumptions and talking points, by providing a detailed review
of actual procurement spending over the past decade.   As BFAD Distinguished Fellow, Dr. Gordon Adams noted, “We cannot evaluate future
defense plans and budget needs without an honest accounting of the substantial
improvements in the current force that doubling the budget made possible.  We are not worn down and unready; the force
is well-armed and primed.”

Read the complete report here.

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