The military services have been ordered to cut $32.1 billion from their projected spending plans for the next five years as part of government-wide belt-tightening forced by rising war costs, a growing deficit and hurricane-relief spending.
The order came in a Oct. 19 memo from Gordon R. England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, to the leadership of the Army, Navy and Air Force, according to a senior defense official. The newsletter Inside the Pentagon reported on the memo yesterday.
No decisions have been made and more adjustments are expected this month from the White House as the deadline nears for the completion of the fiscal 2007 federal budget, the official said. The cuts would affect budgets through fiscal 2011.
The spending cuts had been expected and are in addition to reductions the Pentagon proposed last year. The bill to fund the Defense Department for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1 still has not passed Congress.
The Pentagon's budget to support troops, which includes increasing fuel and health care costs, is expected to be immune from cuts, industry analysts said. The military will also continue to need millions of dollars to repair and replace equipment being used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.
Thus, the cuts are expected to come at the expense of expensive weapons programs such as Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the DD(X) destroyer being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. The military's procurement and research and development programs, from which defense companies get most of their profits, are considered vulnerable, especially those that are behind schedule or over budget.
"The budget pressures are making it very difficult to afford new military hardware," said Loren B. Thompson, a defense industry analyst with the Lexington Institute.