Lawmakers are trying to strong-arm the Pentagon into saving favored programs and pet projects ahead of the release of its 2015 budget next month.
Projects on the do-not-touch list include the Navy's 11-carrier fleet - defended by Rep. Randy Forbes (R) and others in Virginia where carriers are built - and the Air Force's A-10 "Warthog" aircraft, long a favorite of Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). Other lawmakers say the Defense Department should avoid cutting the Army National Guard or its Apache helicopters, and that it should fund the combat rescue helicopter program. The pre-emptive strikes highlight the difficulty the Pentagon will face in cutting programs to tighten its belt, as well as the lengths lawmakers will go to protect programs and jobs on their home turf.
Gordon Adams, a defense analyst at the Stimson Center, said that the Pentagon will still manage to get its desired savings by cutting end strength and more mundane procurement programs.
"To get the money, you have to go after the low-hanging fruit, and the low-hanging fruit is how big is the force," Adams said. "But you don't tackle the pet rocks or big systems. It's just not doable."