- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

The proposed increase in spending by the Pentagon, which will see its budget authority rise from $334.3 billion in fiscal 2002 to $379.3 billion in fiscal 2003 (which begins Oct. 1), is being characterized as the largest cash infusion for national security since the early years of the Reagan administration. This is true. In fact, over the next five years, the budget that President Bush released last week projects cumulative Pentagon spending to be $2.06 trillion, culminating with a $451 billion defense budget in 2007.
Upon close inspection, however, the question isn't whether the Bush administration intends to spend too much on defense. Rather, it is whether Mr. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are planning to spend enough at least during the next two years. While the 13.5 percent increase for fiscal 2003 seems substantial, the plain fact is that the Pentagon's procurement accounts that's the money that actually buys the weapons systems will continue to be starved. Moreover, for 2004, overall defense spending is projected to be only $387.9 billion, reflecting a paltry increase of only 2.3 percent, barely enough to cover inflation. It is hard to argue against the $12.2 billion, or 15 percent, increase next year for military personnel. Given the readiness problems of the late 1990s and the war in Afghanistan, nobody can take issue with the $14.1 billion (11.2 percent) increase for operations and readiness on top of the $12.2 billion increase in 2002. And the research, development, testing and evaluation accounts deserve their second consecutive double-digit annual percentage increase.
Given the talk about the "procurement holiday" of the 1990s, however, it is disturbing to find that procurement spending actually decreasing in fiscal 2002, the first full budget year of the post-Clinton era. Moreover, budget authority for procurement spending in fiscal 2003 rises only $7.6 billion (12.4 percent) to $68.7 billion. That means that for the 2002-2003 period, average annual procurement spending will have increased only 5.5 percent. By way of comparison, Ronald Reagan, who called for supplemental defense spending increases as soon as he entered office, raised procurement spending by 36 percent in 1981, 34 percent in 1982 and 25 percent in 1983.
Much of the commentary thus far has been about the weapons systems that are being purchased next year. To be sure, the Pentagon must buy more of the pilotless surveillance aircraft like the Predator, which has also been equipped with deadly remote-fired Hellfire missiles, and the high-altitude Global Hawk both of which have performed admirably in Afghanistan. But the question is whether the Pentagon is purchasing enough of these drones. And the Pentagon must replenish its inventories of the satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and the laser-guided bomb kits, both of which performed exceptionally well in Afghanistan.
The new defense budget will purchase more of the next-generation F-22 fighters for the Air Force to replace the aging F-15s and F-16s. Additional top-of-the-line aircraft-carrier-deployed F/A-18 E/F Superhornets, which performed so well in Afghanistan, will be bought. And the Pentagon will continue to develop the tri-service Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). All to the good. (Those who argue that the F-22 should be cancelled in favor of the more affordable JSF will be the first to call for the cancellation of the JSF as soon as it leaves development and approaches production). Unfortunately, however, no funds were allocated to restart the assembly line for the B-2 bomber. This is a major strategic error. The new era is one in which overseas bases will surely be less and less available. (How reliable will the Saudis be in 10 years, if in fact the House of Saud has not gone the way of the Shah by then?) Therefore, the B-2, which flew numerous highly successful non-stop missions to Afghanistan from its Missouri Air Force base, is precisely the weapon the United States will need. Mr. Bush himself made the point in his major defense policy speech at The Citadel in 1999. The military "must be able to strike from across the world with pinpoint accuracy … with long-range aircraft," then-candidate Bush noted. A single B-2 bomber, which can precisely deliver 80 JDAMs and attack mobile missile launchers, nearly matches the entire JDAM firepower of an aircraft carrier.
Mr. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, are known to be keen backers of the B-2. The fact that it was excluded from the fiscal 2003 budget confirms how inadequate procurement spending continues to be a state of affairs that was widely expected to end with the arrival of Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld. And it gets worse: In fiscal 2004, procurement rises at a much slower pace (8.7 percent) and by a much lower amount ($6 billion) than it does in 2003. And procurement increases by less than $5 billion in 2005. It isn't until 2007 that procurement increases by more than $10 billion per year. So, backloading seems to have made a comeback as well. The fiscal 2003 defense budget is a good start. But it is only a start.

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