- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

The Bush administration budget released yesterday provides $623 billion for defense in 2008, an increase of 4 percent from the current year and the largest sum in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1946 after the end of World War II.

Including national security programs of other agencies, such as the Departments of State and Energy, the United States would spend more on security next year than the rest of the world combined.

“Our priority is to protect the American people, and our priority is to make sure our troops have what it takes to do their jobs,” Mr. Bush said after a Cabinet meeting.

The budget for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, provides $142 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, marking the first time Mr. Bush has estimated the cost of the two conflicts in advance. Congress also will be asked for an additional $93 billion in the current year.

Other Pentagon operations would be funded at $481 billion in the budget, which allocates $37 billion for the State Department and its foreign-aid programs.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, total world defense spending amounts to about $1 trillion. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, estimates that China comes in second after the United States by spending up to $100 billion annually. Russia is third at about $50 billion, followed by France, Japan, Britain, Germany and Italy.

The budget estimates spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at substantially less than the $170 billion being spent this year. It provides $50 billion for fiscal 2009 and nothing after that, but the White House insisted that the numbers do not indicate troop reductions.

“There will be no timetable set, and the reason why is because we don’t want to send mixed signals to an enemy, or to a struggling democracy, or to our troops,” Mr. Bush said.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said the budget numbers are not final and that it was “very, very difficult to project costs in future years.”

The Pentagon’s budget proposes a 3 percent pay increase for military members. Since 2001, military salaries have jumped by 32 percent. The proposal adds $4 billion to continue reducing the threat to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from roadside bombs, which account for about 70 percent of U.S. battlefield casualties.

The Army, the military branch that bears the heaviest war burden, would receive the largest percentage increase in its budget: more than 20 percent to $130 billion. The Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps would get increases of 8 percent, 9 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

The overall budget to purchase weapons would total $102 billion, up more than 20 percent from fiscal 2007.

Mr. Bush’s request, which faces significant opposition in Congress, calls for a budget increase of about 12 percent for the State Department.

Randall Tobias, the department’s director for foreign assistance, said Israel and Egypt will remain the top recipients of U.S. aid. They will be awarded $2.4 billion and $1.7 billion respectively, he said, slightly less than last year.

Other top aid recipients are Afghanistan ($1.67 billion), Pakistan ($785 million) and Sudan ($673 million). Aid for Kosovo, the Serbian province that is moving toward independence, would nearly double to $151 million, Mr. Tobias said.

The budget of the Millennium Challenge Corp., which awards assistance using business principles such as setting fiscal and other benchmarks for developing nations, would almost triple to $3 billion.

The request proposes further cuts in support of counternarcotics efforts in South America.

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