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Procurement in the Overseas Contingency Operations Budget May 8, 2009

Posted by dglaudemans in Uncategorized.
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HVPresident Obama’s defense budget, released yesterday, asks for $130 billion for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (Overseas Contingency Operations – OCO).  In past years, the Bush administration requested funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through supplemental appropriations.  These requests frequently included the procurement of equipment that was unrelated to combat-related losses or irreplaceable damage.

Such requests allowed DOD to buy additional equipment without making tradeoffs in the base budget. The Obama administration pledged to end this practice by restricting the use of war funding vehicles to items that were lost or rendered inoperable as a direct result of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Analysis of the FY 2010 OCO budget indicates that the administration’s first war budget makes significant progress toward greater war budget discipline, with some question marks.

The $130 billion includes $24 billion for procurement, or 18% of the total. This procurement share is consistent with war budgets in prior years.  The request includes funding for Army and Marine ammunition, a small number of helicopters, some ground equipment items, and several types of missiles and bombs, such as Hellfire (2,133 units), Javelin (864), TOW (1,294), and JDAM (3,860).

The missile request raises the most questions.  Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan include considerable use of these systems for combat operations.  The replacement request may meet the administration’s narrow test for war budgets.  It also raises an issue. Over the years, the services have built a large inventory of such systems, but the test allows their replacement, one-for-one. The inventory requirement, however, was built with the Cold War in mind, not counter-insurgency operations.  There remains, as a result, a very large inventory of these weapons, which might be safely drawn down, rather than replacing those fired in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The HUMVEE request also raises a question.  The Pentagon asks for 1,770 Humvees in the base defense budget and an additional 8,444 in the OCO request.  This high OCO number may result not only from combat losses, but from the transfer of vehicles to the Iraqi Army, which counts as a combat loss.  Under this rubric, the Humvees requested in the OCO budget meet the criteria set forth by the administration.  However, replacing the Army’s inventory to reach broader unit requirements may be better considered in the Army’s base budget request.

The Pentagon is also seeking $5.5 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP).  This may be justified.  Roadside bombs are an increasing source of US casualties in Afghanistan, rising from 50% to 75% in just over two years.  In addition, modifications to the MRAPs used in Iraq may give that vehicle more maneuverability in the harsh terrain of Afghanistan, but its off-road maneuverability may continue to be a question.

There appears to be one procurement item that does not fit the administration’s narrow criteria: “ammunition and missile stocks consumed in pre-deployment training” for Brigade Combat Teams.  Training equipment and ammunition should more properly be included in the base budget, as highly predictable.

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