Representative Kilmer’s op-ed, “Fix broken defense contracting,” failed to address the real problem with defense acquisition (Seattle Times, April 23, 2015)
Kilmer stated that the defense sector is an economic driver in Washington State and that Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) and Naval Base Kitsap combine for more than $12 billion in economic impact per year. But this figure belies the fact that the two bases (not including 324,000 acres for JBLM at the Yakima Training Complex) take up 97,400 acres of prime real estate in Pierce and Kitsap Counties including valuable waterfront on Puget Sound. This is more acreage than the entire City of Seattle and would likely bring a greater economic gain if used by the private sector.
We are told that greater efficiency for defense acquisition will benefit our local economy. First on Kilmer’s list is to fully reverse automatic spending cuts known as sequestration for the military. However, no mention is made of the tax increases and/or cuts to social programs needed to end sequestration and increase funds for military programs.
Kilmer and other members of Congress are promoting a six-year process to streamline acquisition that will “maximize the capabilities and strengths of our military.”
The bigger problem with defense acquisition is the promotion and procurement of multiple weapons programs that become more expensive with each successive year. Nuclear weapons programs provide an example. The Air Force is currently planning for new long range nuclear bombers and replacement intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) while the Navy is building a replacement SSBN-X nuclear submarine.
These nuclear weapons delivery systems and other plans to upgrade our nuclear arsenal will cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Many of these long range programs have already begun even though their combined costs are too expensive to complete.
Kilmer is a strong proponent of the Navy’s Trident nuclear submarine base in his 6th Congressional District. According to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report, the projected budget for the SSBN-X replacement submarine program for FY 2016 is $1.39 billion with the planned procurement of the first submarine in 2021. The 12 replacement submarines are expected to cost nearly $100 billion with the last submarine being placed into service in 2042.
The $100 billion for replacement submarines does not include the $1.2 billion the Navy is currently spending each year for upgrades to the existing Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. By 2042, the end of the service life of the D-5 missiles, new missiles will have to be designed, tested, and deployed. The Navy has not publicly discussed the cost for the replacement missiles for the new SSBN-X submarines.
Last year Congress created a new military account for the replacement submarines, called the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund.” Congress has yet to allocate funds to the account.
Never mind if our nation actually needs more advanced weapon systems. As Kilmer and other members of Congress ponder ways to simplify and streamline the acquisition process for the military, costs will continue to spin out of control.
The way to fix defense acquisition is to start making cuts in defense spending, the sooner the better.
*Glen Milner lives in Lake Forest Park and is a researcher and activist with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo. See www.gzcenter.org. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is also on Facebook.
A partial list of references:
http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_acres_is_the_city_of_Seattle Seattle is 91,200 acres compared to the 97,400 acres for the two military bases. I checked this figure with the 142.5 square miles at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle and other sources.