Give and Take

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cuts older systems to make way for the new.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is offering deficit-conscious lawmakers a tough trade-off in his $419 billion fiscal 2006 budget proposal. He's seeking to fund military transformation programs by cutting billions of dollars from long-running and popular Cold War-era weapons systems.

The fiscal 2006 Defense budget proposes $38 billion in cuts in some of the military's largest weapons programs over the next six years. "These are very much real and legitimate cuts," says Dov Zakheim, who resigned last spring as Pentagon comptroller. Zakheim, now a vice president at consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, says the cuts were driven by the soaring costs of the Iraq war, pressure from the White House and Congress to cut deficit spending, and the Pentagon's ongoing push for military transformation to a lighter, agile fighting force.

Defense analysts, however, have suggested that the cuts might not be as severe as everyone fears. Many would not occur until 2007 and beyond, which would give lawmakers time to reverse them. For example, Raptor reductions would not begin until fiscal 2009. Other programs would even receive increases before cuts set in.

Lawmakers have vowed to fight the reductions. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Precision Strike Association forum in Arlington, Va., that lawmakers would be "looking for money to prevent the cuts."

Another factor influencing defense spending will be the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, due next fall. The congressionally mandated analysis of military strategy and force structure, completed after every presidential election, guides Pentagon planning. The review will be "revenue neutral," Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, said at the January PSA forum. Any proposed increases in Defense spending would be offset by cuts, he said.