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BUDGET PROPOSAL Bush wants $419 billion for Pentagon next year



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush will ask Congress for $419.3 billion for the Pentagon for next year, 4.8 percent more than this year's spending, as the administration seeks to beef up and reshape the Army and Marine Corps for fighting terrorism.

The request will not include money for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress already has appropriated $25 billion for those wars this year, and the White House is planning to request another $80 billion soon.

The president plans to roll out his military spending proposal Monday as part of a roughly $2.5 trillion federal budget. But documents obtained by The Associated Press on Friday show that he will request $19.2 billion more for the Defense Department than its $400.1 billion budget this year.

However, his request is $3.4 billion below the $422.7 billion the Pentagon estimated in January that it would need for next year.

The proposal will include restructuring and expanding the Army and adding combat and support units for the Marine Corps. It reflects Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's efforts to transform the Cold War-style military into one that's more rapidly deployable to fight terrorist groups.

Under Bush's plan, defense spending would grow gradually, hitting $502.3 billion by 2011.

The proposal, according to one of the documents, supports the war on terrorism by "strengthening U.S. defense capabilities and keeping U.S. forces combat ready. It continues to implement lessons learned from ongoing operations in the war."

Those include, according to the proposal, "the need for flexible and adaptable joint military, strong special operations forces, highly responsive logistics and the best possible intelligence and communications capabilities."

The plan calls for special operations forces, which the documents described as "critical to the fight against terrorism," to add 1,200 troops. The forces would get $50 million to keep people from leaving the services.

Spending control

The president also wants Congress to let him spend $750 million as he chooses to help Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. allies opposing terrorism bolster their military and security forces. In the past, lawmakers have been reluctant to give Bush unfettered control of such funds but have generally complied.

On Thursday, Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton -- ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee -- said in a statement that he worried the president's budget request, which he anticipated would be billions less than the Pentagon had predicted needing, "may weaken our efforts" in Iraq and Afghanistan "while undermining our ability to prepare for future conflicts."

Specific accounts

Overall, the president's proposal calls for the Navy, Marines and Air Force to all receive extra funds next year, but the Army's budget would take a $300 million reduction to $100 billion even though it's bearing the brunt of the costs and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the $80 billion Bush plans to request in the coming days for Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to be tilted heavily toward the Army.

Bush plans to propose $1.6 billion to fight chemical and biological threats next year and $9.9 billion over the next five years. And, he would allocate $9.5 billion for homeland security activities next year and $147.8 billion for training, maintenance and other "readiness" programs.

Despite the overall military increase, the Pentagon's account for purchasing new weapons would actually incur a $100 million cut next year to $78 billion. The proposal underscores how huge federal deficits are affecting even the Defense Department, long one of Bush's top priorities.

The president, according to the documents, will seek $8.8 billion for its missile defense program, compared with $9.9 billion this year. The documents also showed that he would ask for $695.7 million for the Chinook helicopter for next year, compared with $869.8 million for this year. And, the B-2 stealth bomber would get $344.3 million, down from $365 million this year.




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