The Pentagon has a new game plan for a leaner military: fewer soldiers and more drones. Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panatta will unveil his department's $525 billion budget for the fiscal year of 2013, which includes $487 billion in cuts over the next decade. Details of the budget are beginning to leak out to reporters ahead of the press conference and, as a whole, paint a picture of a more specialized, low-profile military. Here's what we know so far.
Drones The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the new plan includes a 30 percent increase in drones. "The Air Force now operates 61 drone combat air patrols around the clock, with up to four drones in each patrol," report Adam Entous, Julian Barnes and Siobhan Gorman. "Mr. Panetta's plan calls for the military to have enough drones to comfortably operate 65 combat air patrols constantly with the ability to temporarily surge to 85 combat air patrols, officials said." That's going to make the already inflated role of drones even more important. As Danger Room reported earlier this month, drones already account for 31 percent of all U.S. military aircraft.
F-35 jets Bloomberg reports this morning that the Pentagon's F-35 figher jet program will take a hit. The Pentagon will buy 13 fewer crafts than previously planned. "The reduction is part of a decision to delay purchasing 179 of the Joint Strike Fighters beyond 2017 to continue development, testing and correction of deficiencies," reports Tony Capaccio. "The plan to purchase 62 F-35s in fiscal 2014 is being reduced to 29, according to budget data. The request for 2015 is dropping to 44 from 81, and the planned purchase for 2016 will decline to 61 from 108."
Army Politico's Charles Hoskinson writes this morning that the "biggest loser" in the new budget is the Army, which will drop below 500,000 troop levels. On Wednesday, the AP reported that the Army "slash the number of combat brigades from 45 to as low as 32 in a broad restructuring of its fighting force aimed at cutting costs and reducing the service by about 80,000 soldiers." That would trim $260 billion from the budget.
Special forces The Wednesday AP report also noted that special-operations forces would not be reduced. This morning, The Journal notes that the program will in fact grow, which was a big win for Vice President Biden, "who argued for reducing troops in Afghanistan and relying more on special-operations forces and local allies."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.