Bush plans defence budget hike

US President George Bush has submitted a $439.3 billion defence budget to Congress, seeking a 7% boost in military spending without taking into account the full cost of a protracted war in Iraq.

    The budget takes account of changing US military priorities

    The White House said the proposed 2007 defence budget includes increased funding for more Predator surveillance drones, special operations forces and investments in nuclear systems upgrades and enhanced missile defences.


    Weapons procurement spending will go up to $84.2 billion, an 8% hike over 2006, and to $73.2 million for weapons research and development, a slight increase, it said.


    The White House is asking for an additional $50 billion as a down payment for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007, but shields the annual defence budget from the full fiscal impact of the war on terror.


    The remaining cost of the military operations, as well as the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, will be funded through an emergency request later in the year outside the annual defence budget, the White House said. 


    It estimates total defence outlays in 2007 at more than $504 billion with estimated additional war costs of $50 billion included.


    The White House, meanwhile, is submitting a supplemental request for $70 billion to cover war costs for the remainder of fiscal 2006, which ends in October, bringing total spending on the war this year to $120 billion.


    Rapid deployment


    The Pentagon will continue to buy
    advanced fighters like the F-22

    Among the big ticket items in 2007 is $6.6 billion to convert army divisions into smaller, rapidly deployable and more self-sufficient combat brigades.


    The Defence Department also is investing $3.7 billion next year in development of the army's Future Combat System, a network of digitally-connected combat vehicles and other systems.


    The programme is expected to cost $22.4 billion through 2011.


    The budget also requests $2.6 billion to begin construction of two next generation DD(X) destroyers, and $957 million for two Littoral Combat Ships, a fast, small ship designed for coastal warfare.


    Aviation programmes were virtually unscathed despite earlier speculation that the Pentagon would make cuts in costly fighter programmes to pay for the army's modernisation.


    The budget provides $10.4 billion in 2007 to fund acquisition of the F-22 and F/A-18 E/F fighters, and the development and procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon said.


    Meanwhile, the shift toward unmanned aircraft continued.


    Unmanned drones


    Spending on unmanned aicraft
    is to get a major boost

    The budget includes $342 million in 2007 to expand the military's force of Predator surveillance drones.


    The Pentagon said it plans to acquire 322 unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles over five years, budgeting $11.6 billion for it.


    The budget allocates $1.9 billion for development and procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) in 2007.


    The White House provided no figures on how much it is budgeting for special operations forces in 2007, but the Pentagon last week said plans call for a 15% increase in the size of those forces.


    The number of active duty special operations forces battalions will be increased by a third and the number of psychological operations and civil affairs personnel by another third.


    A five-year programme to expand the commando force will take $28.7 billion, the Pentagon said.



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