US Defense Department proposed budgets will prioritize military need, not budget caps, said Frank Kendall, Pentagon acquisition chief. (Jim Watson / Agence France-Presse)
WASHINGTON — The US Defense Department will continue sending Congress budget proposals that do not adhere to federal spending caps and will instead opt to develop budgets it believes are appropriate to defend the country, a senior Pentagon official said.
DoD acquisition chief Frank Kendall said, “it is extremely unlikely that we will ask for less money than the president thinks he needs to defend the country.” His comments came in a speech Tuesday at a National Defense Industrial Association conference.
Kendall stressed that no formal White House decision had been made to submit cap-busting DoD budgets down the road, but pointed to the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, which exceeds the caps by $115 billion between 2016 and 2019.
“[W]e are not going to send over budgets, I believe, at sequestration levels,” Kendall said. “We’re going to be sending budgets that ask for the amount of money the [Obama] administration thinks it actually needs.
“That was what we did this year and I expect that is what we’ll do in the future,” he said.
DoD has faced criticism in Congress and from defense budget experts for not adhering to budget caps. Some analysts say that not planning for budget caps hurts more in the long run since across-the-board cuts are then made through sequestration to bring spending levels in line with the caps.
F-35 Price Tag Dropping
The Pentagon’s latest selected acquisition reports, an annual assessment of cost and schedule of DoD programs, will show the price tag for the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter is falling.
“It’s down [but] it’s not down as much as I’d like it to be,” Kendall said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
The total price tag for the program fell $4.5 billion in 2012. The program’s cost, for the aircraft and Pratt & Whitney-built engines, totaled $391.2 billion in last year’s DoD report.
Kendall said the Pentagon is “exceeding our goals” for lowering the production cost of the F-35, but sustainment is where many of the costs reside.
A March Government Accountability Office assessment of DoD’s major programs said the F-35 program cost decreased $11.5 billion “due solely to efficiencies found within the program.”
DoD could release the selected acquisition reports for 2013 as soon as this week. ■