The Other Shoe

The aerospace industry was badly rattled recently by a leaked memo that the Office of Management and Budget wanted the Pentagon to consider postponing a new aerial tanker by five years and killing the 2018 bomber project outright. But that wasn’t all OMB had its eyes on, according to Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. Speaking yesterday in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies (see above), Thompson said the OMB passed on other “suggestions” that signal the White House’s intent to cut defense programs deeply. “What you didn’t hear about,” Thompson claimed, were suggestions to cut the airborne laser, the transformational satellite communications system, further C-130 purchases, and even a new aircraft carrier. And, that was just for Fiscal 2010. In 2011, Thompson asserted, OMB wants the Pentagon to terminate the F-22 and Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and sharply reduce buys of the F-35. “These are exciting times,” Thompson joked, “like Pearl Harbor was exciting.” Unless China suddenly gets visibly belligerent or terrorist attacks in the US resume, Thompson sees little traction for keeping all these programs in a budget drowning in red ink. “This spells big trouble for US airpower,” he said.