“An Inappropriate Balance?”

That is the way Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) views the proposed cuts announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6 when, among other significant changes to military weapons programs, he said the Next-Generation Bomber should be put on hold pending further study. During a Senate Armed Services airland panel hearing last week, Thune and panel chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) expressed concerns that the planned cuts were without sound analytical foundation. During the April 29 hearing, Barry Watts, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, noted that the NGB had been studied “to death for the last decade.” When Thune, who along with several other Senators has asked President Obama to reconsider the NGB decision, asked whether the current bomber force would carry us through the next 20 to 30 years, Watts unequivocally said no. And, retired Gen. Richard Hawley, former Air Combat Command boss, told the Senators, that the Pentagon is “underestimating the seriousness of threats we might face in that timeframe.” (Read more on last week’s bomber discussion in The Bomber Argument.)