Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Bush administration in bid to boost defense system


The Bush administration will ask Congress to boost spending on missile defense by US$1.2 billion next year and nearly double funding to modernize the Army in the US$401.7 billion US military budget for 2005, according to Pentagon documents released on Friday.

The defense plan is part of a proposed US$2.3 trillion federal budget US President George W. Bush will send to lawmakers tomorrow. It includes a 7 percent increase in defense spending over the current level of US$375 billion.

The Pentagon said the defense budget documents -- scheduled to be formally released on Monday with the president's overall budget -- were inadvertently posted on the Internet on Friday, but later removed.

The administration seeks to boost funding for its controversial missile defense program by 13 percent to US$10.2 billion next year from US$9 billion requested for fiscal 2004.

The new figure includes spending by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency of US$9.1 billion in 2005, up from US$7.6 billion, as well as the Army's Patriot missile program.

The Pentagon's plan to begin deploying the initial parts of a missile defense shield by September has drawn sharp criticism from some US allies and Democrats who say it has not been adequately tested and could spark an arms race in space.

The budget also calls for US$3.2 billion for the Army's "Future Combat System," a high-tech plan to make soldiers more mobile and lethal in the post-Cold War world. That is up from US$1.7 billion in the current year.

The military plans to spend US$74.9 billion to buy weapons and other equipment in the 2005 fiscal year, starting Oct. 1. For this year, the Pentagon asked Congress for US$72.5 billion, but actual spending on weapons systems rose to US$81.1 billion due to extra war-related spending approved by lawmakers.

The requested US$74.9 billion is also expected to increase sharply under a supplemental spending request expected from the administration after the November presidential election.

The defense budget does not include up to US$40 billion or more in supplemental spending for military operations in Iraq, which congressional sources and analysts say the White House could seek from Congress late this year or early next year.

The budget calls for almost US$4.6 billion for Lockheed Martin Corp's Joint Strike Fighter, or F-35, up from US$4.25 billion requested this year. The program to develop a stealthy, long-range fighter includes more than a dozen foreign partners.

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