Budget Experts See Tough Times Ahead for Modernization

Military budget experts threw cold water on the idea that the new Trump Administration would increase Pentagon spending to meet modernization requirements. Speaking Monday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C., CSIS senior fellow Andrew Hunter said a “six-year trough in weapons systems development” had grown so large that the new administration would have a hard time solving the problem. The gap in developing next generation capabilities—which Hunter said is the worst in the Army—is now coming face to face with a “modernization bow wave” that is “almost entirely a phenomenon of the Air Force.” And while USAF will benefit from new programs like the B-21 bomber, F-35 strike fighter, KC-46 tanker, and T-X trainer, Hunter admitted the service would face its own capability gap in the near future. He was also pessimistic that acquisitions reform could have much impact on the Pentagon’s ability to pay for its new systems. “Streamlining is possible,” he said, but the DOD has already made its acquisitions efforts much more efficient over recent years. Adding to the problem, any change in spending is most likely to come in the form of annual increases in overseas contingency operations spending for current operations, which Hunter said is “unstable” and “a pretty poor mechanism for funding a modernization build-up.”