The Obama administration has undergone a complete shift over the past few months. While officials previously attacked lawmakers for requesting expensive weapons, the administration is now doing exactly what it criticized.
Lawmakers pointed out to Politico that Defense Secretary Ash Carter is now forced to tout weapons the Pentagon has even tried to get rid of over the past year, notably the A-10 close air support jet and Tomahawk missiles, as well as the F-18.
“I don’t think anybody, even in the Pentagon, really thought we were ready to hang up the Tomahawk and be done with it,” Justin Johnson, defense budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I think they’re realizing that whether they’re using them in combat today or whether they need them for the future, again, it doesn’t make sense to shut down or get rid of one capability until you have something in place to replace it.”
Reversal of the A-10 divestment is a huge victory for Congress. Legislators have fought the Air Force tooth and nail to keep the aircraft around, and the DoD’s new budget reflects the outcome of that struggle: The A-10 will stay in the force until 2022. At that point in time, the department hopes to replace the A-10 with F-35s.
GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of DoD officials that the switch “harms their credibility.”
Part of the reason for the department’s flip-flopping on weapons programs is that leadership has changed rapidly. Ash Carter only recently took over the Pentagon from Chuck Hagel. Additionally, the department did not anticipate how extensive the air campaign against the Islamic State would turn out to be, and it did not fully calculate rising threats from Russia or China.
According to Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst over at the American Enterprise Institute, the fact that the Pentagon has caved yet again on budget requests means that this trend will likely continue in the future.
“When the Pentagon seems inconsistent over one year or several with its requests, it swings wide open a door already cracked because of previous inconsistencies and allows lawmakers to easily prevail in overturning the decisions,” Eaglen told Politico. “These reversals also hurt the general perception of service leadership credibility and trustworthiness.”
The full, $583 billion dollar Pentagon budget is set to be released Tuesday.
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