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Bush asking for 401b defense budget exluding iraq afghanistan

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Posted on Mon, Feb. 02, 2004

Defense budget doesn't include funds for Iraq, Afghanistan
By Drew Brown
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - President Bush is asking Congress for $401.7 billion in military spending for 2005, including huge outlays for new manned and unmanned aircraft, advanced ships, missile defense and precision weapons.

The proposal represents a 7 percent increase over fiscal 2004.

American military budgets have increased steadily for the past six years. The Bush administration plans for military spending to grow $20 billion a year over the next five years. The current defense-budget proposal projects that spending will reach $487.7 billion by 2009.

The 2005 proposal represents 3.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to Pentagon estimates. Defense spending is up from 2.9 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2000, but down from 8.9 percent during 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, according to Pentagon figures. Spending is also down from 6 percent of GDP during the military buildup of the Reagan administration, according to Pentagon figures.

Noticeably absent from next year's request is money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. White House budget director Joshua Bolten estimated that another $50 billion would be needed to cover those costs next year. The White House expects to cover the war costs with supplemental funds after next fall's elections.

The budget sets aside a 3.5 percent pay hike for troops and $74.9 billion in new weapons. Another $68.9 billion is earmarked for research on futuristic projects including a laser satellite system, space-based radar and cruise missile defense.

Weapons procurement is weighted heavily in favor of new planes and other aircraft, including $11 billion for the controversial F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, all of which have had cost overruns in recent years. The Osprey had a series of fatal crashes and almost was scrapped.

Unmanned aircraft such as the Predator, which was used successfully in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, would receive nearly $2 billion in funding, a 32 percent increase over last year. The Pentagon also plans to spend $1.6 billion on satellite and laser-guided bombs, Tomahawk missiles and other precision munitions, all of which have been used heavily in combat operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The budget includes $9.2 billion for missile defense, a $1.5 billion increase over fiscal 2004. Bush's plan calls for deploying up to 20 ground-based interceptor missiles in Alaska and California and another 10 ship-based interceptors by the end of calendar year 2005.

Critics argue that missile defense hasn't been tested adequately and isn't ready to deploy. A report by the congressional General Accounting Office last year warned that anti-missile system technology hadn't been proved to work, and many critics warn that deploying the system could spark a new arms race.

"Sanity does not seem to have a lot of influence on the decision," said Christopher Hellman, a military analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "It's a totally unproven technology."

Pentagon officials said the president's proposed military budget would meet the demands of the war on terrorism and also would help make the armed services a lighter and more lethal force.

Some defense analysts disagreed.

"It seems that there are a lot of leftover Cold War weapons programs that are still being funded in this budget," said Marcus Corbin, an analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a policy research organization in Washington. Examples include the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter and the Comanche helicopter.

With federal deficits already ballooning, other critics say Bush's plan to increase defense spending may be unrealistic.

"One of the most significant questions is whether or how long this (amount of spending) is sustainable under the broader fiscal picture, which doesn't look very good," said Steven Kosiak, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, another Washington policy-research group. "If history is any guide, if and when Congress decides to take on the deficit issue, then defense will be among the first to be hit."

The Air Force comes out the winner in next year's defense plan, with a 9.6 percent increase in funding. The Army would receive only a 1.8 percent increase, the smallest of any service.

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