That buzz you hear above your head is the sound of the Pentagon cutting its budget.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta detailed today how the Obama administration plans to achieve $487 billion in cuts over the next decade, in part by reducing the number of ships, planes and troops, but continuing to fund elite special forces -- and support technologies like unmanned drones.
Panetta will request a Pentagon budget of $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, a $6 billion reduction from last year's budget and $33 billion less than what had been forecast a few years ago. The administration will also ask for another $88.4 billion to maintain the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, a reduction from the $115 billion being spent this year.
Panetta told reporters that the impact of the cuts will be far-ranging, "make no mistake, the savings we are proposing will impact all 50 states, and many districts across America."
Anticipating the tough fight the proposals will likely face on Capitol Hill, Panetta said they "will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action."
The plan presented today reflects the new military strategy released earlier this month that shifts the military's attention away from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan towards Asia and the Middle East.
To that end the Pentagon will continue to fund the resources that enable it to project its power into those regions, such as the development of a new long-range bomber and maintaining the Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers at 11. One of the Navy's new Combat Littoral ships will be based in Singapore and patrol craft will continue to operate out of Bahrain.
There are interesting plans to "acquire an afloat staging base for support to ISR, Special Operations Force, and countermine missions." Very little is known about this proposed facility, which one Defense official said was intended for deployment to Asian waters. ISR is the acronym for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Pentagon shorthand for drones, so presumably the platform will increase the projection of drone activity to that part of the world.
It was also announced today that the Air Force will also be asked to ramp up by 30 percent the number of Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) that its Predator drones fly daily from 65 to 85. Referred to as CAP's, Combat Air Patrols usually require three Predator drones rotated daily to carry out 24-hour surveillance missions. An Air Force official says the service already has available the drone aircraft needed to ramp up to 85 CAPs but will need extra manpower and equipment assigned to the mission to carry it out on a long-term basis.
Some weapons buys will continue, but be delayed by a few years, notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which is intended to replace most of the fighter jets in the Army, Navy and Marines. Also delayed will be the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Navy will delay by a year the purchase of a new submarine and an amphibious assault ship.
Other weapons in development were canceled outright, including the JLENS Missile, the JAGM missile, the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft. All were projects that were found to offer the same capability as existing weapons, but at a higher cost.