Wed, Apr 08, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Gates unveils defense budget proposal

AFP , WASHINGTON

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday outlined plans to “profoundly reform” US military spending, calling for scaled back weapons programs and more funds for counter-insurgency warfare.

Gates said he wanted to halt production of F-22 fighter jets, cancel a new presidential helicopter and delay shipbuilding plans, while bolstering funding for surveillance drones and other resources for campaigns against insurgents like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“If approved, these recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business,” Gates told a news conference.

Gates said he had tried to balance the need to combat immediate threats posed by terror networks, with more traditional threats associated with conventional warfare.

“Collectively, [the recommendations] represent a budget crafted to reshape the priorities of America’s defense establishment,” he said.

The budget was designed to help “fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years to come,” said Gates, whose proposals will likely face stiff opposition from some members of Congress.

In an unusual step, Gates said he briefed lawmakers about his recommendations before making his proposals public.

The move suggested Gates and US President Barack Obama were bracing for a political battle with lawmakers and influential defense industry contractors.

The Pentagon chief said he recommended ending production for the F-22 Raptors and cutting US$1.4 billion from missile defense weaponry next year.

The proposals would improve the way the Pentagon manages defense contracts, Gates said.

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