Conflicting Spending Priorities Split Carter Senior Officials

first_imgA sharp disagreement between Defense Secretary Ash Carter and top officials, primarily in the Navy, over the best long-term strategy for the military, could jeopardize the prospects of Carter’s vision for the armed forces of the future, as reflected in the department’s fiscal 2017 budget request, from taking hold.Carter’s plan calls for investing in more advanced weapons such as next-generation fighters and submarines, and high-demand skills such as cyber warfare. Philosophically, the dispute comes down to a clash over expanding force structure — the path favored by the services — and increased capability — the approach adopted by Carter, reports Politico.The fight between the defense secretary and the Navy over the number of littoral combat ships it proposed for the FY 2017 budget broke out in public after Carter chastised Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last month for submitting an “unbalanced” budget plan. In a memo, Carter directed Mabus to slash planned purchases of the ship from 52 to 40.“These choices will create a Navy that is far better postured to deter and defeat advanced adversaries,” Carter wrote. His memo indicated he agrees with the ship’s critics who say it that while it provides “presence,” it lacks some capabilities in combat situations.“This means that overall, the Navy’s strategic future requires focusing more on posture, not only on presence, and more on new capabilities, not only ship numbers,” Carter said.The battle over the FY 2017 budget is crucial for Carter as he likely only has one more year in office to shape the department’s spending priorities before a new administration takes over. The military services and lawmakers, though, can just wait him out.“It will be very easy for the services and Congress to just push these things off for a year and wait for a new team to be in place,” Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Politico.“It is difficult to make a political argument to sacrifice something now for a benefit that may or may not pay off for 10 or 20 years,” Harrison said. Dan Cohen AUTHORlast_img