Last Updated Sep 3, 2009 5:58 AM EDT
The leaked documents show that the Air Force is planning about a four percent cut in spending over those years. This doesn't sound like much but it add up to over $24 billion. This is not a good sign for the Army and Navy either as the Air Force probably has the smallest share of the total defense budget among the services. Part of this is due to the fact that they have less personnel and equipment.
The cut of about $4.8 billion a year led the Air Force to propose ending several major acquistion programs. These include the C-130E upgrade program, new radios and satellites and a reduction in the number of Global Hawk strategic Unmanned Aeriel Vehicles (UAV) by eight. That is a thirty-six percent cut in the number to be procured.
The Air Force is sacrificing all this to keep funding three main programs. These are the F-35, the V-22 and the new KC-X tanker. All three of these are key to the modernization of the force. The Air Force is faced with these choices as the only real "slack" in the budget is in investment programs - that is R&D and procurement. The rest of the budget is driven by force structure and operations. Those make up the majority of the total funding and are hard to cut without reducing manpower or flying less.
Now it is true that this might be a deliberate leak to try and let Congress know that big hits are being planned by the Obama Administration and that they need to get ready to fight these kind of cuts. It is also true that after sacrificing the F-22 Congress might not be in the mood to cut more out of the procurement budget as that directly affects jobs in their districts.
It is also true that as with the $2 billion saved by ending the F-22 the $25 billion or so being cut is not much when compared to the TARP or "Stimulus" funding in 2009 alone. It is really not much when you compare it to the nine trillion that will be added to the deficit over the next ten years either.
The Federal budget is too large and relies on too much borrowing. It is clear that really the only place that Obama wants to cut it so far is in defense. This kind of reduction unless there are basically abandonment of many missions or operations will be hard to fund without reducing capability. That is the great fear with these kind of budgets. Eventually it won't just be new equipment lost but training and operations reducing the experience and performance of the U.S. military like in the Seventies.