Military spending would rise 5%

Budget doesn't include Iraq and Afghanistan

President Bush's Budget

February 08, 2005|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - President Bush's budget for next year would boost defense spending by $19 billion, or about 5 percent, including more money for missile defense, special operations forces to fight terrorism and protection against chemical and biological warfare, officials said yesterday.

The military budget, which makes spending projections for the next six years, shows a decrease in spending for major weapons programs, including the Air Force's F/A-22 stealth attack aircraft and Navy ships.

"First, as a nation at war, an overriding priority must be to ensure that commanders have the troops and the equipment that they need to prevail in the global struggle against extremism," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "At the same time, we have to prepare for future threats, both conventional and asymmetric, and continue to reform the defense establishment accordingly."

The annual defense budget, which will now be scrutinized and adjusted by Congress, does not include money for the U.S.-led war in Iraq and military operations in Afghanistan. Those are covered in a separate administration request of about $80 billion, which would bring the total cost for three years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to about $230 billion.

The Pentagon's spending blueprint reflects a shift from the conventional warfare of the Cold War era - with heavy emphasis on weapons such as tanks, ships and aircraft designed to battle the Soviet Union - to the more shadowy conflicts of the campaign against terrorism.

The U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Fla., which includes the Green Berets and Navy SEALs, has been given a prominent role in defeating terrorism, according to budget documents.

Over the next year, the command will add 200 civilians and 1,200 military personnel, including four SEAL platoons, to its existing 50,000 military and civilian employees. A total of $50 million is proposed for helping to retain special operations forces, some of whom will be offered $150,000 bonuses to sign up for six more years of duty.

Benefit in Maryland

The administration also wants to sharply increase spending for chemical and biological defense, including new detection devices and enhanced protection against threats such as anthrax. The Pentagon added $2.1 billion to this program for 2006 through 2011, bringing total funding for next year to $1.6 billion and $9.9 billion for the next six years.

That spending would benefit Maryland's Fort Detrick, home to the U.S Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defenses. Some of the money would go to upgrading and modernizing laboratories there, said Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican from Western Maryland who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I am very pleased that the president has singled out Fort Detrick's leading efforts in America's and the world's defense and deterrence against biological attacks," Bartlett said.

The budget also includes money for missile defense, though not as much as the current budget. The administration is requesting $8.8 billion, down from $9.9 billion. The administration plan for this year calls for bringing the total number of Ground-Based Interceptors to 21 and Standard Missile 3 missiles to 22.

Critics in Congress and the scientific community charge that the administration is rushing into its missile-defense program without enough rigorous testing. In December, the first test of an interceptor, designed to fly into space and release a "kill vehicle" that would destroy an enemy missile, was a failure.

The Pentagon blamed the failure on a "very minor" computer software glitch, which officials said could be easily corrected. Another test is planned for this month.

"The president's proposal continues to spend $8.8 billion on the National Missile Defense program even though it has failed every test to date and does nothing to protect us from terrorists," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat.

The Air Force's F/A-22 attack aircraft program will be halted in 2008 after 179 planes are built - 96 short of the Air Force's goal.

The Navy will get only four new vessels - one submarine and three ships - instead of the six that the Pentagon had said a year ago it would fund in the 2006 budget.

Bush's budget also calls for providing $750 million to Iraq, Afghanistan and "other designated nations" to "increase their ability" to fight the war on terror, though no specifics are given.

Agility, mobility

Much of the budget revolves around shifting military personnel to create a more agile and mobile force.

The Army is in the midst of creating additional ground combat brigades, which would help ease the strain on forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget calls for increasing the number of these maneuver brigades to 43 by 2007 from a total of 33 in 2003.

The Marine Corps also plans to realign its forces, creating two additional active-duty infantry battalions and other units by 2008 that will specialize in intelligence, reconnaissance and counterterrorism. This would be achieved by reducing the number of artillery, tank and air defense units, rather than increasing the overall size of the corps.

However, the Navy will continue to shrink from 12 aircraft carriers to 11 during the next year and reduce its size by 10,000 personnel, as part of an effort that began in 2003. Next year, plans call for the Navy to contract by 13,200 personnel.

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