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tv   This Week in Defense  CBS  February 5, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EST

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welcome to "this week in defense news." i'm vago muradian. france's amphibious assault 2o#" betake -- we take a tour of a novel vessel that packs a big punch at a bargain price. but, first, the ranking member of the house arms services committee joins us for an interview to discuss the administration's 2013 defense spending request which is to include $525 billion for the baseline budget and another $88 billion for overseas contingents. the white house will submit the budget to congress on february 13th. the administration proposes to cut $259 from planned spending levels over the next five years to meet congressionally- mandated reduction goals. adam smith is a representative
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who represents washington state's 9th congressional district which includes major boeing research and development and until the end of the year joint base lewis mcchord and surrounding communities that are home to 100,000 military personnel, their families, defense contractors and civilians. i started our interview by asking him his view of a plan that republican lawmakers have blasted as cutting too deep, jeopardizing national security. >> let me just say first of all on one level the criticism that is coming from some of my republican colleagues makes literally no sense because the size of the budget -- and we'll get into the more important part which is a strategy that is behind those decisions, and i think that strategy is very sound, but the actual size of the budget, the money that the pentagon has to spend in fy 2013 was set by congress, it was passed by a republican- controlled house, by a nominally democratly-controlled senate and signed by the president. the top line number the d.o.d. and secretary panetta have to
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spend and that went into the strategy was mandated by the very congress and in some instances the very people who voted for it. >> the budget control act. >> right. budget control ability in august set the number. so now -- budget control act in august set the number. everyone says why did you vote for it. it happens that i didn't vote for it for a variety of different reasons. but that is the number, that is the law of the land. >> why didn't you vote for it? >> i didn't vote for it because it put getting the deficit under control all on the backs of discretionary spending. there was nothing in entitlements, and there was nothing more importantly in revenue. when you look at the size of our deficit and have no revenue be a part of this. if you're not willing to put revenue on the table, then you're going to put this kind of burden and more on to the defense budget and on to all other discretionary budget spending. >> let's go to one of the things a senior defense official said in unrolling this. they said any tinkering with the plan will cause its
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derailment, but they also welcomed working closely with congress to try to find a way forward. this is an election year. republican members have been very vocal about blasting this plan. how does this succeed in a politically-charged environment? >> i don't know that. but here's the way it should sort of play out. number one, the republicans in the house and those who are criticizing the amount of money being spent need to either put revenue on the table to cover more spending or stop, all right? and either you say here's where we're going to find you more money or you live with, again, what congress passed, what the republican house passed. this is the number. now, then d.o.d. says, well, you can't tinker with it or it'll change. i think there is an overall strategy and that overall strategy is somewhat dependent on where the money is spent. it's completely wrong to say if you make any one change that strategy tbs out the window. i don't think that's true. obviously you can look at it and say i like your strategy, i know we've got to live with this number, but i think the cut here shouldn't be here, it should be there. that's the role of congress, i think to exercise that oversight or possibly it's the
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role of congress to say you know what, we got a brand new strategy. we got a brand new strategy that either lives within this budget and here it is or it goes beyond the budget and here's the revenue or here's the other spending cuts that we're going to make in order to fit that. >> but with congress as polarized as it is, how are you going to find that middle ground? >> it's going to be extraordinarily difficult. i am attempting to lay out the way this should go. >> the way you'd like this to go. >> no, no. -bq.i1çj to cut over here, we're going to raise revenue over here to provide more money or, b, you say, okay, we can live with the money but we think it ought to be spent this way. that's the way the debate ought to go. what's happening right now is people are often in fantasy island. it's, like, well, we don't want to raise any more revenue, we don't want to cut anything
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else, but we're just not spending enough. you can't use a magic wand to make money appear. let's have a realistic debate about what our choices are. >> sequestration obviously is a big danger and you think it can be avoided, both republicans in the house and senate are moving or suggesting that sequestration, that defense should be exempted from any form of sequestration. how do you think the sequestration battle will play out and will defense eventually be exempt from it? >> i don't think defense should be exempted from it. i voted against the budget control act because i thought it put all the burden of getting the deficit under control on the 38% of the budget that is discretionary. i tell you i care about roads and bridges and education and infrastructure and discretionary portions of the budget that aren't defense, i care about defense, but i care about all of it, so i don't think defense should be, you know, picked out and specially protected, and, again, i have signed the letter that said, you know, we should go big, get $4 trillion in savings in 10
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years, put everything on the table, including revenue, get us some realistic changes to the tax code. so, you know, that -- the preferred option here is find a legitimate $1.2 trillion in savings, minimum to meet the budget control act so the sequestration doesn't happen. >> but do you think ultimately that it is going to be resolved, that we're going to dodge the sequestration bullet? >> yes. but for complicated reasons. i wish -- and i will continue to hope that congress will recognize the deficit, recognize the fact that, yes, we have a short-term need to stimulate the economy, but we have a long-term need over the 10 years to put in place a budget that gets the deficit under control and stops the debt to gdprationo from going to dangerously high levels. i still hope we recognize that and do that. some of the stuff that's been talked about in a variety of different plans -- >> but, for example, letting the bush tax cuts lapse. >> let me get to that. but we can do it a bunch of
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different ways. you come up with some revenue, you raise some, some not. there's a whole bunch of ways to get to $1.2 trillion, a whole bunch of ways to get to $4 trillion in 10 years, to backload and recognize where we are in terms of the economy. even if we don't, the bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. the precise same day that sequestration is supposed to be implemented is the precise same day that the bush tax cuts expire. that's $4.2 trillion. so if we do what we did two years ago and simply kick the can down the road and say, yes, we need tax reform, yes, we need to do this, but we can't get an agreement, so we're going to extend them all as is, if we did that again, the vote to extend the bush tax cuts all in one would be the vote that would cause sequestration, so i don't imagine us doing that. at a minimum i think we will find $1.2 trillion out of those taxes to prevent that and win the pressure of, okay, the only way to stop sequestration is to
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stop $1.2 trillion in taxes and that will open a broader debate and i don't think this will happen. this is not good, waiting until december, waiting until these things are all set to go off the cliff to make a last minute decision. that's why i still think find the $1.2 trillion right now, stop sequestration, do the deficit the way it's supposed to be done. that's what we ought to do. like you said, it's an election year and politics is likely to trump that common sense approach. >> more with my interview with the ranking member of the house arms services committee, congressman adam smith after
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i'm back with more of my interview with congressman adam smith, the washington democrat who's the ranking member of the house armed services committee. when we met last week, i asked him what elements of the administration's defense plans concern him. >> no, i think the strategy makes a great deal of sense. the president has looked at the world, at the national security threats that we face, worked with d.o.d. and come up with a pretty good plan. nothing leaps out at me at first glance saying, oh, that's crazy, we can't do that. we've got a lot of hearings, a lot of discussions, a lot of people are seeing this for the first time. we'll hear that reaction and we'll judge and i'm sure there will be some changes that will make sense. but at first blush, it seems like a very solid strategy. >> there's a consensus among analysts that the administration did punt on a lot of major program cuts, particularly in an election year and there's also a widespread consensus that the defense budget cuts are going to get deeper over time, especially as deficit reduction
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efforts kick in. do you believe and is it possible and is it acceptable for defense cuts to go deeper? >> it's hard to say, first of all, what's going to happen. now, i think if we went full sequestration, that would be a significant problem for our national security. >> as d.o.d. says. >> d.o.d. officials say that. can we go beyond the 487 a little bit? undoubtedly. i'm sure there's places to find savings that fit within the strategy and i think we'll have to be looking at that going forward. as far as whether or not d.o.d. or other discretionary programs are going to face a deeper cut going forward, it's hard. the budget is three pieces, revenue, entitlements, discretionary spending, discretionary spending is 38%, entitlements are 55%, revenue obviously is 100% of the revenue. there is a very, very strong unwillingness in this country and in this congress to look at entitlements and to look at revenue. so what's left. that makes it very difficult. >> should the pentagon -- one of the things the pentagon, even within the pentagon, the leadership is criticized for is saying no, 47 is the number and
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we shouldn't plan for a leaner future. should they be planning for a leaner future? >> planning is not -- they're thinking about it, they're having discussions, but to go through a full-scale pentagon planning effort for those who have looked at the chart that shows the pentagon planning effort, it's not a small thing. so to say, all right, we're going to have to plan for six different numbers is enormously expensive and i don't think wise at this point. they planned for the number that congress gave them and they can expect. now, are they thinking about possibly some other options? there's a whole bufnlg of other options on the table. they're not completely blind if all of a sudden someone says we need another $100 billion. >> let's go to base closures. there are two rounds of base closures, at least one, perhaps two rounds of base closures the administration wants to execute. chairman mckeon has blasted that idea as not a good idea. where do you come down on it and how do you convince him and other members of the party that it's a good idea? >> it's inconceivable to me that we will, you know, have the reductions in the size of our force and the shifts in
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some of our emphasis that are contained in the strategy without a need to do a round of base closures. i'm still waiting to sort of hear the argument as to why we're not going to do that. personally it's unimaginable to me that we're not going to have to make some shifts in order how we do our basings to get greater efficiency and save money and spend the taxpayers' money more wisely. one of the arguments is base closure doesn't save money. that's probably true in some instances, about you that's not the point. the point is how do we structure our force in a way that matches our strategy. the idea that we can have the kind of changes that we're going through in the last few years, the budget changes, the f that. how do we go about the process of making more substantive changes to our military paying compensation systems to better reward service with cost?
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>> i'm not sure. they're looking at it. they're try to go analyze all those issues and you laid out the balance. we have to try and save money, but as an all-volunteer force, we have to make sure that they get the pay and benefits they need to maintain the strength of that all-volunteer force. i'll tell ya, overall the biggest problem is the same problem we have in the country, healthcare costs. how can we more efficiently spend healthcare dollars. that's something everyone is going to have to look at, the size of the pentagon's healthcare budget, they're going to have to look at it too. >> sir, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> up next, a look inside the france amphibious
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the u.s. navy and marine corps are conducting their largest amphibious exercise in a decade and among the ships participating is the french amphibious assault command ship mistral, one of a new generation of novel war ships that pack a heavy punch into an affordable package. france employed commercial construction tech national
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leagues to cut production costs and employed auto medication to shrink the ships crew and reduce operating costs. the result is a 653 foot, 22,000-ton hybrid war ship that can carry 650 troops almost as comfortably as a cruise ship plus all their gear, including up to 90 vehicles, including tanks and between 16 and 35 helicopters. mistral entered service in 2006 and france now has three of the ships with plans to buy at least two more. russia also bought two mistral class ships with an option for two more. i spent some time aboard mistral recently and interviewed her commanding officer. >> the ship is 200 meters long, 32 meters wide, 22,000 tons which is quite a big ship and you would be amazed to see that there are only 177 personnel on board which is quite small. if you want to compare with what's comparable, a ship like a u.s.s. swat which is quite bigger than
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this ship, very similar in many ways. the crews are 1,000 personnel. we knew that if we kept the crew we would save money. also what we've brought from civilian industry a lot of auto medications which has one or two to take charge of the equipment, different type of equipment on board, so that's how we reduce crews which were around 260 at the time on that type of ship to 177. this ship was built in 2002 in a very peculiar way. the front part of the ship was brought in a shipyard in san jose and the last part of the
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ship was built in the military shipyard vcn and both parts were welded together. we -- at the time we asked the civilian shipyard to do that work because we knew they would do it for lesser fee than what would have been done by military. they were used to build the cruise ships, so they knew how to build a ship fast with nice accommodations and that we wanted to have for that kind of ship. it's built [ indiscernable ] it's very comfortable. it's not as sturdy as you would find in classic combat ship, but you have a very comfortable ship. it's very sea worthy ship and the fact that it's comfortable means that you can stay out at sea a long time without wearing
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down your crews or the troops that you've embarked many navies of. i think it's a ship very well built for that part of the job, staying at sea a long time. 2011 was a very strong year. we've been deployed from mid february to mid september, first on the mission in indian ocean which was to train for amphibious missions overseas with troops embarked on board. on the way back we were told to divert to the libyan coast to participate in the combats there. so we had 69 army helicopters on board, we were off the coast of libya and doing s-strikes
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with helicopters from the ship. and that was a brand new mission for us, very demanding, but very strong. we learned a lot from that mission. this ship was built for three main types of missions, the first it's an amphibious ship and ready to put military personnel on land by way of air. it has a huge flight deck and we can service 16 helicopters on board to bring the troops ashore by way of helicopters and the other ways by sea with the aircraft. that's the first mission, the amphibious mission putting troops ashore. the second one is being a command platform. we can accommodate headquarters on board to run different type of missions whether they be amphibious or operational
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missions, military missions. and the third one is being hospital, seaborne hospital. we have 1,000 square meters of dedicated space for the hospital with 70 beds, two surgical units, scanners, dental shop, et cetera. the navy has received in november, so we're discovering it in many ways, and so we've been going easy with it to see how it works, and the first few days at sea are quite interesting. it's meeting our expectations and we hope that we gain a lot of knowledge and for the crews that they learn how to use it in a very environment. we deem ourselves and we make sure we will be able to work
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together in all the spectrum of missions and operations being one of the things we need to be able to do together, so that's what we came here for is to learn together and learn different types of operations together, make sure we have the same doctrine and our equipment will be used either on your platforms or ours and that's a very important objective in this exercise. the second being that also with all the missions we've been conducting the past few years, we have had an opportunity [ indiscernable ] on a grand scale and this is a unique opportunity to have a lot of ships and other ininfantriry guys together and for the ship and the headquarters that went on board with us work at a scale. coming up in my notebook,
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why the u.s. navy should be studying the french amphibious ship mistral to make future american amfiebious >> woman: don't forget the yard work! >> o.k. >> announcer: with citibank's popmoney, dan can easily send money by email right from his citibank account. >> nice job, ben. >> announcer: well played, dan. well played. citibank popmoney. easier banking. standard at citibank.
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at a time when the u.s. navy is try to go enlarge its fleet on a tight budget, foreign ships offer some thoughtful ideas of how that can be done. france's mistral profiled earlier in this show is a case in point. now participating in the massive bold alligator amphibious exercise off the east coast, the ship combines the best elements of construction in automation, packing capabilities into a affordable package. mistral can carry up to 650 troops, up to 90 vehicles and up to 35 helicopters. better, still, mistral needs a crew of just 170 and costs
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about $600 million. it's hard to compare it to any u.s. vessel. mistral carries about the same number of troops an an lpd amphibious class ship 1/3 of the cost but with a flight that's comparable to a wasp ship. every vessel is the result of tradeoffs. time will tell whether france made the right choices in opting a ship so different from traditional designs. what is clear is that mistral has spent the vast majority of the past four years at sea performing real-world missions, most recently off of libya, more efficiency and at less cost than older war ship designs. overall, it's an attractive package. while she's here, u.s. officials should check her out more closely. thanks for joining us for "this week in defense news," i'm vago muradian. you can watch this program online at or you can e-mail me at i'll see you back
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