Bush to Request $439.3B Defense Budget


02/03/06 "
AP" -- -- President Bush next week will request a $439.3 billion Defense Department budget for 2007, a nearly 5 percent increase over this year, according to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The spending plan would include $84.2 billion for weapons programs, a nearly 8 percent increase, including billions of dollars for fighter jets, Navy ships, helicopters and unmanned aircraft. The total includes a substantial increase in weapons spending for the Army, which will get $16.8 billion in the 2007 budget, compared with $11 billion this year.

Senior defense officials provided the totals on condition of anonymity because the defense budget will not be publicly released until Monday. The figures did not include about $50 billion that Bush administration officials said Thursday they would request as a down payment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. The administration said war costs for 2006 would total $120 billion.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would not provide any details of the budget Thursday but called it appropriate, adding: "We have been able to fund the important things that are needed. It is a sizable amount of money."

The budget proposal represents the fifth year in a row that spending on weapons has increased, after years of cutbacks during the 1990s.

It also provides funding for 42 Army Brigade Combat Teams as part of the ongoing effort to increase the number of combat units from 33. The expansion would allow soldiers to spend two years at their home station for every year they are deployed to a war front.

Overall, the Army would receive $111.8 billion, including $42.6 billion for personnel. The Army National Guard would receive about $5.25 billion for personnel, and the Army Reserves would receive $3.4 billion.

The documents say the budget plan will provide the funding needed to win the long war on terror, recruit and retain troops, and continue the transformation to a more agile fighting force for the 21st century.

The Army's key weapons program, the Future Combat System, will be funded at $2.2 billion, and there will be $583 million to buy nearly 3,100 more heavily armored Humvees. The budget also includes nearly $800 million for 100 Stryker transport vehicles.

During a speech Thursday, Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is learning to do more with less.

"We are finding ways to operate that department in ways that are considerably more efficient and more respectful of taxpayers' dollars," he said. "We are getting much more for the dollar today than we were five years ago."

In other budget programs, the Air Force will receive about $2.2 billion for the F-22 fighter - slashing the 2006 total nearly in half. The drop in funding, however, is actually a contract restructuring that would return that money - and more - over the long run by stretching out the program for an additional two years and buying four more planes. The new plan calls for buying 20 aircraft each year in 2008, 2009 and 2010, rather than 56 in the next two years.

The Navy will receive about $2.5 billion for the next Virginia Class submarine, and there is $360 million in the budget for development of the new CH53K heavy lift helicopter for the Marine Corps.

Other programs in the budget include:

_$5.6 billion to support a wide variety of programs to address the multiple needs of military families, including child care, family counseling, tuition assistance and family centers.

_About $1.8 billion for 81 Army Black Hawk and Navy Hawk helicopters.

_$1.3 billion for five of the new Joint Strike Fighters.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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