Will U.S. Reverse Defense Cuts?

U.S. House Republicans are looking to reverse planned defense cuts. It would have implications for Asia.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is trying to reverse cuts announced by President Barack Obama earlier this year. The House’s proposed defense bill would reverse some of Obama’s planned cuts to ships, drones and warplanes. “The proposal is designed to put real combat power behind the President’s proposed pivot to Asia,” the House Armed Services Committee stated.

As part of the 2013-2017 five-year defense plan, the Navy intends to decommission early seven Ticonderoga-class cruisers optimized for air- and missile-defense. As a cost-cutting measure, four would bow out in 2013 and three in 2014, a full decade earlier than originally planned. The House has proposed to keep three of the four ships slated to go next year, letting go of just one vessel that ran aground and was heavily damaged. The Republican plan didn’t address the cruisers scheduled to decommission in 2014.

The House plan would also reverse the Air Force’s decision to retire 18 brand-new Global Hawk spy drones. The flying branch had decided that the venerable U-2 manned spy plane, originally introduced in the 1950s, was cheaper to operate than the robotic Global Hawk and had adequate airframe life for another several decades of service.

Among other proposals, the House bill requires the Air Force to maintain its existing fleet of 36-combat-coded B-1 bombers (out of a total force of 60 B-1s). In recent years B-1 squadrons have been targeted for small cutbacks.

The House also wants to boost production of new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Virginia-class attack submarines, adding one each to the five-year plan for a total of 10 new vessels of each class.

The House proposal is expected to cost an additional $4 billion on top of Obama’s $550-billion defense budget for 2013, with additional costs in subsequent years. The House’s bill is far from final. It will have to pass a May 9 vote before heading to the Senate for another vote. Even if the Senate approves, Obama could veto the bill.