The Navy and Marine Corps are breaking from tradition and told a House panel they have no outstanding equipment needs not funded in the Pentagon’s official budget request.
The military services have had an annual ritual of submitting lists of such “unfunded” priorities to the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), which will start crafting the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill this month. However, the services have offered notably more-modest lists in recent years, as the practice has received increased scrutiny in the Pentagon. As the two sea services did this year, the Army said last year it had no list to share.
“In my estimation, the Navy’s FY ’13 is balanced to requirements and aligns with the Department of Defense Strategy, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said in an April 5 letter to HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.). “We will promptly notify the Committee should we encounter pressing needs in the future.”
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos sent Smith a similar letter on March 22, saying “the new strategic guidance provides a framework by which the Marine Corps will balance the demands of the future security environment with the realities of the current fiscal constraints.”
Amos cited the Budget Control Act of 2011, the law which has forced the Pentagon to reduce its planned spending by $487 billion over the next decade and brace for roughly $500 billion in potential additional cuts.
The Marine Corps’ FY ’13 budget request “represents the most risk we can take,” Amos wrote. “Given the zero sum nature of the Budget Control Act, we have no unfunded requirement that exceeds the importance of those in the submitted budget request.”
The Army and Air Force had not contacted Smith by press time yesterday regarding potential unfunded-requirement lists.
Despite the increased scrutiny unfunded lists have received, the Navy and Marine Corps both sent Smith unfunded lists last year, detailing communications and ship-maintenance needs for FY ‘12.
Gary Roughead, the now-retired former chief of naval operations, asked last year for $367 million for depot-maintenance work on the surface-warfare ships and $317 million for spare parts for rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Amos submitted an unfunded list last year with $226.5 million in needs including $45 million for the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio.
The Army opted against submitting an unfunded list last year, while the Air Force cited just $124 million in unmet needs (Defense Daily, May 5, 2011).
Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, angered some lawmakers in 2009 when he reviewed the services’ unfunded lists before lawmakers received them (Defense Daily, May 19, 2009).