- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

Major weapon systems that will shape the armed forces for decades have survived an extensive budget review by senior aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Pentagon and military officials said in interviews that the upcoming fiscal 2004 defense budget, if the White House agrees, will fund the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter, the Army's Comanche helicopter, the Navy's CVNX aircraft carrier, the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey transport aircraft and the tri-service Joint Strike Fighter.
These multibillion-dollar programs all received scrutiny this past summer and fall in a review spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, Mr. Rumsfeld's top adviser on weapons and budget issues. The 2004 budget goes to Congress in early 2003 and takes effect Oct. 1.
The Pentagon also plans to boost spending on special operations forces, which are playing a leading role in the war against al Qaeda, from about $5 billion annually to $7 billion. The increase will be used to buy new equipment and expand the 47,000-man commando force. One administration source said the Pentagon will boost the command and support personnel ranks by 2,000, but it is not clear whether all the expansion will occur in 2004 or later.
Mr. Rumsfeld has given Gen. Charles Holland, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, orders to design a new war plan for capturing and killing terrorists. Gen. Holland responded by saying he needs a significant budget increase. The Washington Times reported earlier this month that Mr. Rumsfeld also has ordered his aides and a federally funded research instititute to redesign "SoCom" from a "blank sheet" to better launch covert missions against terrorists.
President Bush campaigned in 2000 on a promise to transform the post-Cold War military by canceling some weapons and developing more advanced ones for future armies and navies.
But several realities limited his planned "technology leap" as the military services launched agressive selling campaigns inside the Pentagon to save their prized systems.
In some cases, the services argued that their weapons met Mr. Bush's demand for transformational programs that could meet 21st-century threats.
Also, the service secretaries contended that in some cases the existing aircraft were simply wearing out and needed to be replaced.
One last major issued remains. Army officails are scheduled to meet this week with Mr. Rumsfeld to sell him on increasing a planned three Stryker brigades to six. Stryker is the name of a light mobile force of the future. They are named for the wheeled personnel carriers that can fit on an Air Force C-130 aircraft. Some outside experts have advised Mr. Rumsfeld against proceeding with Stryker. The vehicles are now being produced at a rate of 45 per month.
But Army Secretary Thomas White is adamant that Stryker is at the heart of the service's future.
"We are not going to go back on the basic decision about Stryker," he said earlier this month. "If the decision is we're going to have three Stryker brigades, then we'll have three Stryker brigades."
In the coming weeks, Mr. Cambone will brief the defense secretary on the program budget review before the 2004 plan is sent to Mr. Bush for approval. The Pentagon describes the budget as the first real effort by the president to transform the armed forces.
Pentagon officials say that although major systems survived, the plan will contain a number of transformation aspects, such as a larger investment in unmanned vehicles. This includes the missile-firing Predator drone that has killed some top al Qaeda leaders. There are also blueprints for remaking Navy air wings and for changing the way the Air Force and Army interact in battle.
"You have to look at transformation as cultural change, not just weapons," one Pentagon official said.
Not all surviving programs are assured of a long life. The Air Force must stop continued price overruns for the F-22 Raptor. The Pentagon has put in place a $43 billion procurement cap.
Officials also said the Marines' troop-carrying Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft remains on probation. Technical problems have caused three deadly crashes.
"It's going to continue, but if it doesn't meet flight goals it is gone," a Pentagon official said.
The Pentagon will commit to about 600 Comanche scout-attack helicopters, cutting the planned buy roughly in half.
Although the budget review did not produce major cancellations, Mr. Rumsfeld has nixed two key programs. He ended development of the Army's Crusader artillery system as too wedded to Cold War battle doctrine. A lighter, more accurate artillery system will be developed. He also ordered the Navy to redesign its next-generation destroyer.
On the high-tech CVNX carrier, the Navy will essentially accelerate transformation by putting advanced technologies planned for the second CVNX into the first one. Construction is likely to begin in 2007.


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