WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- The United States is committing significant new military forces to the "good war" in Afghanistan. Still, while here in Washington we are contemplating a budget deficit that is approaching banana republic levels because of stimulus spending and assorted bailouts, how are we planning to pay for these new military deployments?
On Jan. 10, 2009, there was the solemn commissioning of the George Herbert Walker Bush, or CVN 77, the last nuclear-powered super-aircraft carrier of the Nimitz class. It was named after "Bush 41," the father of President George W. Bush. The outgoing president, "Bush 43," his son, presided over the ceremony honoring his father just a few days before leaving office.
Therefore the immensely expensive nuclear-powered supercarrier George Herbert Walker Bush starts sailing the oceans in the year of the Great Crisis. This 78,000-ton ship, built by Northrop Grumman, with all its aircraft and helicopters and its battle group complement of cruisers, frigates and other supporting vessels, is the ultimate expression of U.S. naval technology and sea power.
Indeed, as Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter said during the ceremony: "The impact of a new carrier is global. For no other ship represents to the world the power of the United States the way this does."
But nuclear-powered supercarriers and their supporting battle groups do not come cheap. So, add another few billion dollars to the defense procurement bill stretched over a number of construction years. Nor are they cheap to operate. Therefore, add another several hundred millions of dollars for the annual operating cost of this floating island and the other vessels accompanying it, with thousands of airmen and sailors on them.
The front-line combat air superiority fighters of the U.S. Air Force are now almost as expensive per unit as the nation's warships. Answering a reporter's question on Feb. 13 regarding the chances of buying large numbers of the very expensive Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor, the U.S. Air Force's next-generation fighter jet, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell gave us a hint that the U.S. Department of Defense is aware that money is becoming scarce and tough choices are ahead so that U.S. military leaders will no longer be able to get all the weapon systems that they want. "Fundamentally, the Secretary (of Defense Robert Gates) is looking at the things I laid out for you, I mean, the notion that we need to make hard choices in this economic climate, we need to ... look for cost efficiencies, and we need to be more joint in how we acquire ... ," Morrell said.
His comments should serve as a highly significant indicator that Gates recognizes major changes in U.S. procurement planning and acquisition processes are coming.
(Part 3: The U.S. Department of Defense prepares for painful procurement cuts in many of its most expensive and most important weapons systems.)
(Paolo Liebl von Schirach is the editor of SchirachReport.com, a regular contributor to Swiss radio and an international economic development expert.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)