Unmanned systems, S&T get the knife in 2013 defense budget

The Defense Department’s fiscal 2013 budget cuts some unmanned aerial systems (UAS) procurement along with science and technology funding as part of overall spending of $613 billion, down from the $670 billion requested for fiscal 2012.

The Air Force is seeking to restructure some of its UAS programs, including sustaining its current responsibility for combat air patrols using the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, despite cutting its Reaper procurement in half. The spending is detailed in a budget overview released by DOD Feb. 13.

“The only reason we're making the reduction is we need to give time for the personnel and training system to catch up so that we can effectively operate these systems,” DOD Comptroller Robert Hale said, adding that DOD will spend $3.8 billion on UAS in fiscal 2013. He said the Predator will be kept on longer than planned to help make up for the reduced Reaper procurement.

The Air Force plans to shed 30 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft (11 of the manned RC-26, one E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and 18 unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks), and has terminated its Global Hawk Block 30, which was intended to replace the manned U-2 that has been used for several decades. Instead, the Air Force proposes to keep the U-2 in use through fiscal 2025, with an expected savings of $800 million in fiscal 2013 and $2.5 billion through fiscal 2017.

Also terminated is the Navy’s medium-range maritime UAS, projected to save $200 million in fiscal 2013 and $1.3 billion through fiscal 2017.

The Global Hawk will live on in its Block 40 incarnation, which will be used as a NATO alliance asset for ground surveillance using advanced radar sensor detection. The Global Hawk Block 40 is expected to cost $200 million in fiscal 2013 and $900 million through fiscal 2017.

The Navy and Marine Corps are asking for $32 million in the 2013 budget and $300 million through fiscal 2017 to procure small tactical UAS and modifications that will “provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and target acquisition support for tactical maneuver decisions at the unit level for the services” and the Special Operations Command, according to the overview.

Science and technology

Despite DOD officials’ claims that science and technology would be an area of prioritized spending, funding in this area is down. The budget calls for $11.9 billion in fiscal 2013, dropping from $12.2 billion in 2012. Fiscal 2013 planning provides for $62 billion in science and technology spending through fiscal 2017.

“A strong S&T investment allows the department to focus and align content to meet new and emerging priorities,” the overview said. “Investments were strengthened in DOD S&T priority areas such as cyber S&T, electronic warfare, autonomy (robotics), and advanced manufacturing.”

In the past, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has emphasized the importance of science and technology funding.

“With regards to the key investments in technology and new capabilities, we have to retain a decisive technological edge. We have to retain the kind of leverage the lessons of recent conflicts have given us. And we need to stay ahead of the most lethal and disruptive threats that we're going to face in the future,” he said Jan. 26.

Spending on cyber programs increased slightly, with at least $3.4 billion for strengthening U.S. cyber defenses “including some new activities there aimed at what we know is an important area for us,” Hale said. The $3.4 billion will go through the Air Force to strengthen Cyber Command.

“By Sept. 30, 2013, the DOD will attain a passing score on a comprehensive cybersecurity inspection that assesses compliance with technical, operational, and physical security standards, on an overwhelming majority of inspected military cyberspace organizations resulting in improved hardening and cyber defense,” according to the overview document.


According to a DOD press release, some $19.2 billion will be spent on the department’s Military Intelligence Program (MIP) in fiscal 2013. Of the $19.2 billion, $4.5 billion will be in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, down from last year’s $5.8 billion in OCO spending on the MIP.

At press time, exact figures for base budget MIP spending in fiscal 2012 were not available, but DOD spent $27 billion on the MIP in fiscal 2010, the first time DOD made MIP funding figures available, according to the Washington Post.

According to the 2013 overview, the MIP “supports programs, projects, and activities of the military departments and defense agencies to acquire intelligence for the planning and conduct of tactical military operations by U.S. Armed Forces and our allies. Although we continue to see positive results, the adversary persistently challenges the limits of new technologies, driving the need for additional ISR capabilities and capacity. The FY 2013 MIP request supports this continuously evolving need.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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