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Senate forces Pentagon to buy drones and ships it doesn't need

Published time: August 03, 2012 19:36
Edited time: August 03, 2012 23:36
AFP Photo / Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

AFP Photo / Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

Even though next year’s Department of Defense budget has been slashed, a Senate panel voted on Thursday to fund more ships, cargo plans and drones – equipment that the military neither wants, nor can afford.

­The Pentagon’s requested budget fails to include some surveillance drones (known as the Block 30) and a C-27J propeller-driven cargo plane. Additionally, the Navy chose to retire nine of its old ships, rather than spend the maintenance cash required to keep them in service.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the two most powerful committees in Congress, voted for a $604.5 billion defense budget for next year, which is $100 million less than what the Pentagon wanted. The budget includes money for the equipment that it planned to get rid of.

If the committee has its way, the Air Force will be forced to buy drones it doesn’t want. Each Global Hawk Block 30 drone costs $218 million. The entire Global Hawk drone program costs $12.4 billion. The Air Force wants to continue buying other Global Hawk drones that are cheaper and more effective, but the Senate committee would force it to buy both types.

“Ending Global Hawk production will result in substantial long-term savings that can be used for other programs,” reads the document listing the government’s planned budget cuts.

Additionally, the committee would oblige the Air Force to continue funding the C-27J cargo plane, which is primarily used in conflict scenarios. Since the combat phase is winding down in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has declared it no longer needs the plane, which will cost an additional $137 million to keep running.

And while the Navy planned to retire seven old cruisers and two transport docking ships, the Senate committee said the money is better spent than saved, doubting the Navy’s ability to keep the money for future use.

The Senate panel also added $2 billion to an existing shipbuilding proposal.

While the full Senate still has to vote on the budget, some media outlets predict Congress will likely pass a “continued resolution,” extending last year’s budget until a decision can be reached.

Either way, it seems more likely than not that the Pentagon will be forced to spend millions on equipment for which it has no use for.