Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Bush seeks record US$622 billion military budget

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

The administration of US President George W. Bush is seeking a record military budget of US$622 billion for the next fiscal year, Pentagon officials have said. The sum includes more than US$140 billion for war-related costs.

The administration also seeks US$93 million in the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to pay for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the officials said.

The requests are part of the annual budget request to Congress for all federal spending programs. The budget is to be made public on Monday and Congress will revise it in the coming months.

Together with funds for combat operations this year already approved by Congress, the new request would push spending related to Iraq and Afghanistan to US$163 billion.

"It is the highest level of spending since the height of the Korean War," said Steven Kosiak, a military budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a policy analysis organization in Washington.

Kosiak said that in 1952, the US spent the equivalent of US$645 billion in today's dollars, factoring in inflation, and that in the Korean War military spending exceeded 13 percent of the GNP. The figure is now 4 percent.

With Democrats in control of Congress and opposition to the Iraq war running strong, the request may face more scrutiny than it has in recent years. But few if any budget experts expect significant cuts in military spending while large numbers of troops are in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a statement, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said: "Democrats pledge that our troops will receive everything they need to do their jobs. We will also subject this supplemental [request] to the tough and serious oversight that Congress has ignored for four years."

The regular Pentagon budget request for fiscal year 2008, which excludes war-related costs but covers the costs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as other spending, will be US$481 billion, a Pentagon official said.

That would represent an increase of US$49 billion more than Congress provided this year, Kosiak said.

"As long as we're engaged in major military operations, you are probably not going to see decreases in the baseline budget," he said.

The Pentagon is seeking US$128.6 billion for the Army, US$110.7 billion for the Air Force and US$140 billion for the Navy, according to Pentagon officials.

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