DOD to boost funding for battlefield ISR

Vowing to find a permanent home in the Defense Department’s budget for programs that directly support soldiers on the battlefront in Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the department is adding $2 billion to the department’s fiscal 2010 budget to boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts.

The funding will go partly toward fielding and sustaining 50 Predator-class unmanned aerial vehicles by 2011 that provide around-the-clock surveillance and speeding the production of new ones. The funding would produce a 62 percent increase in Predator-class capability over the current level and 127 percent more than a year ago, Gates said his April 6 briefing on DOD’s budget request.

To further boost ISR capabilities for two battlefronts, the ISR funding also would increase the use of manned reconnaissance conducted from turbo-prop aircraft such as those used in Task Force Odin in Iraq, Gates said. A portion of the funding also would cover research and development aimed at various ISR enhancements and experimental platforms for the current conflicts.

Other expenditures to support troops on the battlefront include:
  • $500 million more than in last year’s budget to field and sustain helicopters, which are deemed critical to operations in Afghanistan.
  • $500 million in additional funding to provide training and equipment to foreign militaries that undertake counterterrorism and stability operations.
  • Funds to deploy 2,800 personnel to support special operations capabilities and to buy the lift, mobility and refueling aircraft to sustain them.
  • Funds for three Littoral Combat Ships that support counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions.
  • Funds to charter four Joint High Speed Vessel ships to improve intertheater lift capacity until DOD’s production program begins deliveries in 2011.
In previous years, programs that directly support troops on the battlefront “have been developed ad hoc and funded outside the budget,” Gates said. “Our contemporary wartime needs must receive steady, long-term funding and a bureaucratic constituency similar to conventional modernization programs,” he said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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