A Year of Sudden Change; An Era of Major Uncertainty
By JAMES D. HESSMAN, Editor in Chief
For the White House, the House and the Senate, the Department of Defense, and the nation's armed services, 2001 was a year of constant and frequently dramatic change. It started with a nation emotionally divided over the results of the 2000 presidential election, an uncertain economy, a president who was relatively inexperienced in the fields of national defense and international affairs, and the Republican majority still in firm control of the House but with only a one-vote majority (the vice president's) in the Senate.
In the nonpolitical world, the nation's armed services seemed to be the only rocks of stability on the horizon. Individually and collectively they were the most powerful, most mobile, flexible, and versatile, and most combat-ready forces--for peace or war--in the world. They were, and are, the best-trained, best-equipped, most highly motivated, and best-led forces in the nation's history.
There were, though, nagging short-term problems of huge long-term significance. Since the Gulf War the emphasis--another way of saying the funds provided for national defense--had been on peacekeeping and humanitarian-assistance operations, on current readiness, and (to a somewhat lesser extent) on pay and other benefits. There were shortages of spare parts, though. Forces were almost continuously overcommitted, frequently on missions (e.g., peacekeeping) that eroded hard-earned unit and individual combat skills. Morale was still rated good to excellent, but was not as high as it had been. Except for the Marine Corps, all of the nation's armed services, including the Coast Guard, were experiencing some difficult recruiting and retention problems.
The end result was a slow but demonstrable decline in readiness, particularly for nondeployed forces, and an even more obvious deterioration of equipment that was rapidly wearing out and not being replaced. This already difficult situation was exacerbated to the extreme by more than 10 years in which the Department of Defense's "future readiness" accounts--i.e., procurement and RDT&E (research, development, test, and evaluation)--had been underfunded by billions of dollars annually to provide additional funding for current readiness. The overall procurement backlog was variously estimated, depending on which individual or organization was doing the counting, at anywhere from $100 billion to $300 billion, and the annual "get-well" requirement at $30 billion to $75 billion or more.
Leadership at the Top
Where the extra dollars would come from was never made clear. President George W. Bush had promised during the campaign that his highest priority as commander in chief would be to "rebuild the military." But he was vague on specifics, except for a firm promise, faithfully delivered, to request a substantial increase in military pay.
As president, Bush proved more politically adept on the national scene than many of his detractors had expected, or predicted, setting a reasonable--and, of at least equal importance, politically "doable"--agenda, and gaining several early victories on Capitol Hill, most notably for his tax cut legislation. He also won bipartisan applause for most if not all of his cabinet and subcabinet appointments.
The plaudits were loudest for the new president's national security team, which conspicuously includes Vice President Richard B. Cheney, a former secretary of defense: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a career soldier with years of complementary experience at the White House; Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, a former White House chief of staff and another former secretary of defense; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's three under secretaries--Dov S. Zakheim, David S.C. Chu, and E.C. Aldridge; and, in the White House itself, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Collectively it was, and is, probably the most experienced and most capable national-defense team in the entire post-WWII era.
The appointment of Norman Y. Mineta, a longtime member of Congress and another former White House chief of staff, as secretary of transportation, also was well-received, as was, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the selection of Governor Thomas Ridge of Pennsylvania to serve as director of homeland security. Both exercise jurisdiction in their respective areas of responsibility over the U.S. Coast Guard, which from 11 September on has played a key role in homeland defense.
Disruptions and Transformation
On Capitol Hill, there was a short-term disruption of the legislative process, and some additional uncertainty about the status of the fiscal year 2002 defense authorization and appropriations bills, when Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont dropped his Republican affiliation and became an Independent. Sen. Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) became Senate majority leader, replacing Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who had been more involved in defense affairs than Daschle had, and was a particularly strong advocate for the Navy's shipbuilding program. The leadership of all Senate committees also changed hands from Republican to Democrat, but the impact on the FY 2002 defense funding bills was negligible.
Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) became the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, succeeding Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.), who for years had been perhaps the House's strongest and most articulate spokesman for a strong U.S. national-defense posture. Spence's death a few months into the year was a major loss for the committee, the House, and the nation. Stump, now in his 13th term, is (like Spence) a Navy veteran, and the committee continued on a steady course under his leadership.
The same was not true at the Pentagon itself. Under Rumsfeld and his deputies, the Pentagon started an era of so-called "transformation," a term never fully defined (and now in danger of being relegated to the dustbin of history). Nonetheless, President Bush's first defense budget plan was designed to expedite and facilitate the transformation, with the details (most of them) expected to be based on the recommendations included in the 30 September report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
Three weeks before the QDR report was issued, though, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon itself--the two most visible symbols of U.S. economic and military strength. The QDR was massively revised, in a masterful job of revising and rewriting, homeland security became the nation's highest national-defense priority, President Bush acquired additional stature as commander in chief of the nation's armed services in the new war on international terrorism, and Congress stood solidly behind the president, particularly on issues involving domestic security, in providing additional funding for the first major war of the 21st century.
It was, and is, in President Bush's words, a "new type of war"--a war of uncertain length and lethality, a war in which thousands of U.S. civilians were the first casualties, and a war that might well change the nation, and the world, in numerous ways, not only for the foreseeable future but probably forever. Whether those changes will be for the better or for the worse has yet to be seen.
Legislative Wrap-up of the 107th Congress, 1st Session
H.R. 3338 FY 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Act
The House of Representatives approved $317.5 billion in defense spending, including $7.9 billion for missile defense, $11.7 billion for counter-terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, a 4.6 percent pay raise for military personnel, $18.3 billion for defense health programs, $61.4 billion for procurement, and $47.7 billion for research and development, as well as a $20 billion supplemental requested following the 11 September terrorist attacks. The supplemental includes $139 million for the Army Corps of Engineers, $88 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and $144.9 million for Coast Guard operating expenses. In addition:
Navy Operations and Maintenance was provided $27,038,067,000.
USMC Operations and Maintenance was provided $2,908,863,000.
Navy RDTE (research, development, test, and evaluation) was provided $10,747,710,000.
Naval aviation was provided $8,030,043,000. The aviation line items included $3,067,552,000 for forty-eight (48) F/A-18 E/Fs, and $790,881,000 for nine (9) V-22s.
Naval weapons procurement was provided $1,478,075,000, including $534,042,000 for twelve (12) Trident missiles.
Navy shipbuilding was allocated $9,294,211,000, which included fiscal year 2002 and advance procurement (AP) dollars. The funds included $3,786,036,000 for four (4) DDG-51s; $1,578,914,000 for one (1) SSN; and $370,818,000 for one (1) T-AKE.
In addition, advance procurement funding was included in the shipbuilding account for the following: $138 million for CVN(X); $684 million for SSNs; $286 million for LPD-17s; and $549 million for SSGN conversion work.
Status: The House bill passed on 28 November. The Senate bill passed on 7 December. The conference committee reconciliation and the presidential signature were still pending when Congress adjourned for the year.
H. R. 2586/S. 1438 FY 2002 National Defense Authorization Act
The House and Senate both authorized $344 billion for defense spending.
Among the specific items in the authorization bill of special interest to the sea services are the following:
A pay raise of five percent--the minimum provided for any service members. The raise may increase to as much as ten percent, depending on the classification and grade of the individual member.
An additional $232 million to accelerate implementation of a proposal to reduce out-of-pocket living expenses for members of the armed services.
$17.9 billion for the Defense Health Program.
$3.1 billion for V-22 Osprey procurement; that total includes funding for aircraft modifications and for spare parts. A total of nine aircraft are authorized, and spare parts for 11 aircraft.
Funds for conversion of four Trident submarines--two more than the president's budget had requested--to the SSGN (nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine) configuration.
$44.6 million for procurement of 10 joint primary aircraft training systems (JPATS).
$85.5 million for modifications to AV-8B Harrier aircraft, including $36.0 million for Litening II targeting pods.
$209.2 million for P-3 modifications.
An additional $75.4 million, over the $2.9 billion budget request, for surface ship depot maintenance.
Status: The Defense Authorization bill was approved by the House and Senate in September and October, respectively. Following conference committee agreement, the bill was approved by Congress on 13 December and signed by the president on 15 December.
H. R. 2299/S. 1178 FY 2002 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act
The Transportation Conference report, which includes FY 2002 funding for the Coast Guard, has been approved. The Coast Guard allocation provides $3,382,000,000 for Coast Guard operating expenses, including $14 million for increased staffing and training for search-and-rescue stations, and $9 million for search-and-rescue readiness, and the funding of a 4.6 percent civilian pay raise. Funds for Coast Guard ACI (acquisition, construction, and improvements) programs total $636,354,000, including $89,640,000 for vessels (WLBs and 41-foot boat replacements, 85-foot patrol craft, and survey and design), $9,500,000 for aircraft, $73,100,000 for shore facilities and aids to navigation, $64,631,000 for personnel and related support, and $320,190,000 for the Integrated Deepwater System. The Coast Guard also is allocated $20,222,000 for RDT&E.
Status: The House bill passed on 26 June, the Senate bill on 1 August. The conference report was completed on 29 November; the House adopted it on 30 November and the Senate adopted it on 4 December.
H.R. 2904/S. 1460 FY 2002 Military Construction Appropriations
Congress approved $9.7 billion for military construction spending programs, including $2.88 billion for the operation and maintenance of existing housing units, $1.2 billion for new housing units, and significant additional funding for improvements to existing family housing units. The bill also provides $162.6 million for NATO investment, $10 million for the Defense Homeowners Assistance Fund, and $632 million for the Base Realignment and Closure Fund. Other provisions:
Sec. 124 prohibits funds provided by the Act from being obligated for Partnership for Peace programs in the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union.
Sec. 129 directs the secretary of defense to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a master plan for the environmental remediation of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Calif.
Sec. 131 requires DOD to accurately reflect, in its budget submissions for fiscal years after 2002, the cost of environmental-restoration activities funded by the Base Realignment and Closure Account.
Status: Became Public Law 107-64 on 5 November 2001.
H.R. 2620/S. 1216 FY 2002 Department of Veterans Affairs, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act
The Veterans/HUD appropriation increases total VA spending by $3.2 billion, or 7 percent over the funding provided for FY 2001. The bill provides a 16 percent increase in funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration (to remedy the backlog of compensation claims), and:
$24,944,288 for compensation and pensions, $17,940,000 of which is allocated for "general operating expenses" and "medical care";
$371,000,000 for the Veterans Medical and Prosthetic Research program;
$21,331,164 (plus reimbursements) for medical care;
$1,195,728 for general operating expenses;
$183,180,000 for construction, major projects (those greater than $4 million); and
$210,900,000 for construction, minor projects (those less than $4 million).
Status: Became Public Law 107-73 on 26 November 2001.
H.R. 2500 S. 1215 FY 2002 Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) and the Judiciary Appropriations Bill
The CJS provides funding for the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Among the provisions of special interest:
A total of $232 million was appropriated for the Maritime Administration. A partial breakdown of the amounts appropriated includes the following: $99 million for the Maritime Security Program; $34 million for the Title XI guaranteed loan program for construction of merchant vessels in U.S. shipyards; $48 million for the Merchant Marine Academy, and $7.5 million to help support state maritime schools; and $33.7 million for MARAD operations.
Another section of the bill provides $375,609,000 for activities of NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) for fiscal year 2002. Of that total, $68 million is earmarked for mapping and charting activities (the bill stipulates, though, that 50 percent of the hydrographic survey work should be contracted out).
The bill also directs NOAA to enter into the long-term lease or charter of a purpose-built U.S.-flag hydrographic survey vessel (rather than acquire a new survey vessel) to meet validated requirements for additional hydrographic activities.
Status: Became Public Law 107-77 on 28 November 2001.
H.R. 3262 "The Merchant Marine Cost Parity Act"
This bill, introduced on 8 November by Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), takes a fresh approach to addressing the numerous problems that have resulted from the long-term decline of the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. The bill, introduced too late for substantive action in the 1st session, seeks to remedy these problems through reform of the U.S. corporate taxation system (a position favored by the Navy League). H.R. 3262, which is patterned after laws previously passed in Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom, includes provisions that would:
- Substitute a tonnage tax for the income taxes presently paid by shipowners;
- Extend to merchant seamen in the international shipping trades the same exclusion from taxation (on the first $80,000 in income) granted to other U.S. citizens working overseas;
- Exempt, from unique Coast Guard vessel design standards, vessels that meet the safety standards imposed by the International Maritime Organization; and
- Allow ship owners and employee representatives to agree upon an insurance policy that would compensate mariners for injuries incurred aboard ship.
Supporters of the bill point out that in 1951 there were 1,238 privately owned U.S.-flag vessels engaged in international trade, and last year there were only 94 U.S.-flag vessels carrying cargo in the U.S. foreign trade, and seven U.S.-flag vessels in trade between foreign countries. The Oberstar bill is designed to equalize some of the costs of registering a ship in the United States as compared to registering it in a flag-of-convenience state.
Status: Pending committee action in the House.