By Emelie Rutherford
Lawmakers have denied the Pentagon the ability to shift funds to cover six requested "new start" efforts detailed in a lengthy omnibus reprogramming request sent to Capitol Hill in July.
The Pentagon last week released the results of the reprogramming request–originally totaling $3 billion and signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England July 11–that some lawmakers started grumbling about soon after receiving. The 70-page document was reviewed by the Senate and House appropriations and defense committees, who rejected $557.7 million worth of requested money shifts. According to the Oct. 1 final reprogramming action, lawmakers took a scalpel to requests for new starts (Defense Daily, July 22, July 25).
A significant Pentagon proposal to reprogram $32 million to Air Force research and developm accounts for buying one C-27 aircraft for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to modify as an AC-XX gunship prototype was rejected by three of the four panels–the House Appropriations Committee (HAC), House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).
SOCOM wanted the gunship capability for Air Force Special Operations Command to provide precision-fire and close-air support for special operation ground forces in theater, the thwarted request for the new-start effort states.
"Greater than expected utilization rates are stressing the AC-130 fleet," it says about the rejected money-shift proposal. "This prototype will serve as a risk mitigation effort to field a new platform to operate in austere locations, with increased operational flexibility, and a smaller support trail of manpower and logistics."
The HAC and SASC also denied a new-start request to reprogram $11.4 million to defense-wide R&D for feasibility studies and engineering analyses "to enhance the mission capability of special operations forces (SOF) aviation," including studies to support the AC-XX gunship.
In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) denied a new-start request to shift $23.9 million to Air Force procurement, in order to replace aircraft that relay communications data in theater with six commercially available PC-12 aircraft. This aircraft-replacement request resulted from a Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) request from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
"This critical ongoing communications relay mission is presently being performed using C-130 and E-6B aircraft," the July reprogramming request states. "However, these aircraft are needed to support other OEF/OIF missions, making more efficient use of their capabilities. To cease diverting these aircraft requires PC-12 replacements to continue this critical national security mission."
The Senate panel also deleted a related new-start request, also spurred by the JUON, to shift $21.3 million to Air Force procurement for replacing current airborne Beyond-Line- of-Sight (BLOS) command-and-control communications platforms with "more efficient, cost-effective capability." This effort would have modified the PC-12 planes so they can carry the communications payload.
Both the SAC and SASC denied a $30 million reprogramming for Air Force R&D to bolster Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) efforts to develop potential solutions for the Hard and Deeply Buried Target Defeat System. The proposed system is intended to provide a global-strike capability not available now.
The SAC also denied sending $3 million in reprogrammed funds to Navy R&D for non-recurring engineering services for the Link 16 capability in the Multi-functional Information Distribution System–Low Volume (MIDS-LVT). This was labeled as a new start.
The omnibus reprogramming request initially sought to reprogram $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2008, $399 million in FY ’07, and $17.4 million in FY ’06 monies. Lawmakers cut the FY ’08 total by $470 million, reduced the FY ’07 request by $87.7 million, and did not change the FY ’06 amount. The approved reprogrammings, thus, total $2.49 billion.