Bush Seeks To Modernize Military

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — President Bush marveled Tuesday at a high-tech simulation of NATO's military might as he asked America's allies to ``work as one'' with him on the development of a missile defense system and ``new architecture'' for U.S. defenses.

``To succeed, America knows we must work with our allies. We did not prevail together in the Cold War only to go our separate ways pursuing separate plans with separate technologies,'' Bush told an outdoor assembly of Navy and Defense Department personnel.

Later, flying back to Washington, Bush told reporters that he realizes his plans to modernize the nation's military could result in cuts in older defense programs and weapons systems— possibly causing problems for some communities.

But, anticipating a potential congressional firestorm if some major weapons programs are curtailed, Bush said members of Congress ``ought to wait'' until Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finishes his top-to-bottom review of the military.

``Let's wait until the review is completed,'' he said.

In his Norfolk speech, Bush said that ``In diplomacy and technology, in missile defense, in fighting wars and above all, in preventing wars, we must work as one.''

The president, on the second of three tours of military units this week, visited the Joint Forces Command. There, by three-dimensional video link, he watched as Vice Adm. Michael Mullen, who was some 50 miles offshore on the USS Mount Whitney, coordinated an allied U.S.-NATO response to a simulated missile attack.

``Pretty exciting technology, and it's only going to get better,'' Bush commented.

Moments earlier, he and Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met briefly and privately with representatives from 19 NATO countries, most of them deeply wary that any U.S. missile defense could touch off an arms race.

Russia and China view the proposed system — a sort of anti-missile ``umbrella,'' which proponents say could shield the nation from a limited missile attack — as a serious threat to their own security.

Bush said Tuesday that the old Cold War threats have ``devolved into many separate threats — some of them hard to see and harder to answer.'' He cited in particular chemical and biological weapons that terrorists might use against civilians.

``With advanced technology, we must confront the threats that come on a missile. With shared intelligence and enforcement, we must confront the threats that come in a shipping container or in a suitcase,'' the president said.

He envisioned a ``new architecture for the defense of America and our allies.''

``On land, our heavy forces will be lighter. Our light forces will be more lethal. All will be easier to deploy and to sustain. In the air, we'll be able to strike across the world with pinpoint accuracy using both aircraft and unmanned systems. On the oceans, we'll connect information and weapons in new ways ... . In space, we'll protect our network of satellites.''

All of this, Bush said, will require new spending. He has proposed a $14 billion increase over current defense spending — the same increase that the Clinton administration had projected for the coming fiscal year.

Accompanying Bush to Norfolk were 10 members of Congress, including Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Joint Forces Command is responsible for training 1.2 million American service personnel in all military branches.

The Norfolk trip — a 35-minute flight aboard Air Force One — was the second of Bush's three consecutive daily visits to military installations, preceding his trip Friday to Mexico. After devoting his first three weeks in office to domestic concerns such as education, Medicare and taxes, the president is stepping into his role as a world leader.

As he does so, the jockeying over the military budget is growing more intense.

Bush has proposed a $310 billion Pentagon budget for 2002. On Monday he said he would set aside $5.7 billion for pay increases, improved health benefits and upgraded housing.

Rumsfeld believes significant increases in military spending are necessary, but is overseeing a review of the Pentagon before Bush makes a decision.

That pause has surprised some Republicans.

At the same time, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., argued Bush's proposed tax cut would make it impossible to meet the nation's defense needs.

Lieberman, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged Bush in a letter to ``reconsider a tax cut that may result in a military less capable of overcoming the new and dangerous threats they may face in the coming years.''