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Ten Questions for Defense Secretary Nominee Leon Panetta

9:41 AM, Jun 9, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz has stated that the present fleet of 187 F-22 fighters creates a high risk for the U.S. military in meeting its operational demands.

  • As China develops and tests increasingly-capable stealth aircraft, like the J-20, and as Russia develops and sells resilient air defense systems, would you support reviewing the previous decision to end procurement of the F-22 Raptor at 187?  Do you favor creating an export variant of the F-22 for sale to allied air forces?

(9) U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy has the fewest number of ships since America’s entrance into World War I.  Yet the Navy is being tasked with arguably more responsibilities than ever before.  Our fleet is undoubtedly the finest ever put to the seas, but quantity has a quality all of its own.  As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen has said, “You are what you buy.”

  • What steps would you take to bridge the gap between our 285-ship Navy today and 313-ship requirement that the CNO has called a “floor”? 
  • Congress has mandated that the Navy have no less than 12 aircraft carriers.  Although the Navy currently has 11 carriers, the U.S.S. Enterprise will be decommissioned in 2013, and the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford will not be commissioned until 2015. Do you support a 12-carrier Navy today?

(10) U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps

Current budget plans -- even prior to the latest announced defense cuts -- were premised upon a complete withdrawal from Iraq and a dramatic drawdown in Afghanistan by 2014. They did not anticipate the prospect of a continued, residual presence in Iraq nor the possibility of a requirement for maintaining a sizeable force in Afghanistan.  And, the plans were made before the events of the “Arab Spring,” including the conflict in Libya.  The current budget plans, and current realities, make it all but impossible to achieve adequate “dwell times” (or rest at home for reset, training and time off) between rotations for combat and support units, and will necessitate continued heavy deployments of the National Guard and Reserves.

  • Do you support Secretary Gates’ proposals to reduce the end-strength of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps? 


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