- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

The White House will approve up to $30 billion in added Pentagon spending next year, not for big weapons, but for creature comforts, defense officials say.
The sources said the new money will be added to the Defense Departments pending $310 billion plan for fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to present the augmented budget to Congress next month. The money would come from the projected federal budget surplus.
The new pot of money will provide up to $8 billion for military health care and $12 billion to repair and build housing and facilities. The remaining funds would go to various accounts such as research and development.
In addition, Mr. Rumsfeld is expected to ask Congress to provide $6.5 billion in emergency money for the ongoing budget to shore up combat readiness. The chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps want this money to pay fuel bills, buy spare parts and patch up substandard barracks and offices.
While the new spending this year and in 2002 would meet immediate needs, major questions remain on President Bushs long-range plans for the military. Those answers will start to emerge this fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff make decisions on an overriding military strategy and how to build the force to meet it. His decisions will be incorporated in the fiscal 2003 budget presented to Congress next February.
Defense officials say that if the White House limits increases to $30 billion or less annually, the Pentagon simply cannot afford the array of major weapons systems awaiting production in the quantity requested. These include the Air Forces $62 billion F-22 fighter program and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) procurement of 3,000 aircraft for $300 billion.
The services have lobbied for up to $100 billion more a year to modernize the 1.4-million-troop force.
Mr. Rumsfeld, in several sessions with reporters last week, made it clear he has made no final decisions on strategy or weapons.
"We have not gotten to the point of addressing weapons systems or specifics," the defense secretary said. "We will in the context of the 03 budget."
The vehicle to spell out the new policies is the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) due to be presented to Congress by Sept. 30. The Pentagon recently moved the study into full gear.
The QDR process lay dormant for weeks while study panels appointed by Mr. Rumsfeld turned in recommendations.
So far, major-ticket items such as the F-22, the JSF, the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey and large-deck Navy carriers have escaped any recommendation for cancellation by the early study panels.
But Mr. Rumsfeld will make final decisions.
Mr. Bush campaigned on transforming the military into a more agile force able to cope with a variety of threats in the new century, not just conventional conflicts, such as the 1991 Persian Gulf war. He quickly ordered Mr. Rumsfeld to conduct a top-to-bottom review, and come up with new policies and promising systems.
"There is an impression that I arrived in Washington with fully developed views on every single aspect of the defense establishment," said Mr. Rumsfeld, a corporate executive who ran the Pentagon in the mid-1970s. "The reality is I didnt… . I have a lot of impressions, and I am prepared to begin discussing those impressions. But in terms of suggesting that therere conclusions or Ive rejected a lot of alternatives, the answer is that thats just not the case."
In his commencement speech at the Naval Academy on Friday, Mr. Bush hinted at two new policies. He said graduates may one day see Trident ballistic missile submarines converted to carry hundreds of land-attack cruise missiles. And he suggested that the Navys Aegis destroyers will one day track and hunt ballistic missiles as part of a global anti-missile system.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide