Bush defense budget features $9.4 billion to battle terrorism, plus increases for weapons, pay raise

Saturday, February 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush's new Pentagon budget assigns $9.4 billion to battle terrorism while boosting funds for buying weapons and providing better pay and benefits for the troops, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The papers provide the first detailed look at Bush's $379.3 billion Defense Department request for the 2003 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. He will send his overall $2.13 trillion budget to Congress on Monday.

Spurred by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush and administration officials have said defense, domestic security and the economy will be the spending plan's top three priorities, with many other programs enduring cuts or much smaller rates of growth.

``The budget fulfills President Bush's pledge to win the war against terrorism, defend America and its people, improve quality of life for our men and women in uniform and accelerate a bold transformation of the U.S. military to counter 21st century threats,'' one document says.

The budget calls for an increase of $45 billion, or 13.5 percent, over this year's Defense Department total. Bush announced a $48 billion increase last week, but the budget documents use the smaller figure because of bookkeeping changes involving some retirement costs.

Bush envisions the Pentagon's budget growing gradually to $451.4 billion in 2007, according to the documents. When past years' defense budgets are adjusted for inflation, the biggest ever was under President Reagan in 1985, $451.8 billion.

Overall, the documents say, Bush would spend $396.1 billion for defense next year. The extra $16.8 billion is for defense programs outside the Pentagon, mostly the Energy Department's nuclear weapons budget.

Along with the rest of his budget, Bush's defense proposal will be considered by Congress in coming months. But with a war against terror under way and troops in Afghanistan, lawmakers of both parties are sure to support healthy defense increases this year, even as deficits return.

``We support every penny that's necessary to fight terrorism at home and abroad,'' said Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee.

Even so, some congressional officials have privately criticized Bush's proposed increase as providing less than the numbers would make it appear.

They say that after taking into account inflation, improvements to the ailing military health-care system and a $10 billion contingency fund that Bush is proposing to cover military operations, little is left to strengthen war-fighting capabilities.

According to the documents, Bush's proposal includes $3 billion for counterterrorism programs, force protection and domestic security; $1.2 billion to continue combat air patrols over the United States; and extra money for communications, munitions and other items.

The president also wants $68.7 billion for buying weapons and other equipment, up from the roughly $60 billion spent this year.

The budget also requests $53.9 billion for research and development, nearly 10 percent above this year's total.

It includes $7.8 billion for national missile defense research and testing procurement, plus $815 million for development of space-based sensors that can detect missile launches. That is about equal to this year's amount.

The documents say Bush also is proposing:

_A 4.1 percent increase in basic military pay, with possible additional raises for some officers. Troops got a 5 percent raise this year.

_A cut in troops' out-of-pocket costs for private housing, from 11.3 percent to 7.5 percent.

_Extra spending for costs of training and for the increased operations the services have performed since additional troops were deployed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The budget documents also claim about $9 billion in savings from unspecified ``management improvements'' and changes in acquisition procedures.

In other details obtained by the AP, Bush's budget will propose:

_A $1 billion increase, to $11.35 billion, for grants to states for school districts that have many low-income students. Bolstering the Title I education program was one focus of the school-improvement bill Congress passed last year.

_$8.5 billion in grants to states for education for handicapped children, $1 billion more than was provided this year.