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DoD sends Congress $36B wish list, but passage unlikely

Apr. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Drones Opperated At Holloman Air Force Base
Wish List: The US Air Force requested 12 General Atomics Reaper UAVs in the unfunded list. (Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. military services have sent Congress wish lists that include $36 billion in priority items that were not included in the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal.

But actual passage of the lists seems unlikely.

The lists are very similar to the White House’s Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI), which includes $26 billion in defense items not included in the Defense Department’s $496 billion spending request.

Some of the overlap items include:

■ Two Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighters ($372 million).

■ 10 Air Force Lockheed C-130Js, five MC-130J and five HC-130J variants ($1 billion).

■ 12 General Atomics Reapers ($192 million).

■ Eight Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft ($1.1 billion)

■ Two Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters (about $100 million).

■ 28 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters (about $500 million).

■ One Northrop Grumman E-2D command-and-control plane ($146 million).

■ One Lockheed KC-130J tanker for the Marine Corps ($75 million).

But the service wish lists include other procurement items, including:

■ $200 million for the Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter program.

■ $2.1 billion for 22 Boeing EA-18 Growler jamming aircraft for the Navy.

■ $720 million for 10 C-130J for the Air National Guard.

■ $1 billion for six F-35, five F-35Cs and one F-35B for the Marine Corps.

The wish lists also include tens of billions of dollars for upgrades, maintenance and construction projects, that have been reduced or deferred due to lower defense spending levels imposed by defense budget caps or cuts by sequestration.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, requested the lists from the services this year. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army National Guard and Air National Guard all sent the list to him this week. Defense News obtained all of the lists except the Army’s.

The top lines figures for each wish list are:

■ Army, $10.6 billion.

■ Navy, $10.6 billion.

■ Marine Corps, $2.5 billion.

■ Air Force, $8 billion.

■ Army National Guard, $1.5 billion.

■ Air National Guard, $2.6 billion.

But the chances of any of the items in these wish lists and OGSI getting approved is slim, since defense spending is capped at $496 billion.

“It is not going to happen,” said Gordon Adams, a Stimson Center analyst who ran defense budgeting during the Clinton administration.

During a roundtable with reporters on Thursday, McKeon was asked what kind of chance the $26 billion OSGI had of passage. He made a “zero” gesture with his fingers.

“We already did the budget this year,” he said.

Lawmakers are unwilling to renegotiate the spending caps established in the two-year budget deal struck late last year by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Adams said.

“This is political three-ring circus, but it’s not budgeting,” Adams said. “The thing that really concerns me about it is that it totally undermines planning discipline in the Pentagon.”

DoD submitted a five-year spending plan to Congress that exceeds the spending caps between 2016 and 2019 by $115 billion.

The wish lists submitted to Congress this week — called unfunded priorities or unfunded requirements — were a flashback to last decade when the services would send lawmakers lists totaling tens-of-billions of dollars.

At its high point, the Air Force submitted a $20 billion wish list of items desired by service brass, at a time when military spending, already at an all-time high.

Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates truncated the lists substantially during his tenure at the Pentagon to the point where they were no longer produced in 2013.

Unlike in prior years, the National Guard submitted unfunded lists this year.

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