San Diego Union-Tribune

June 28, 2001

Defense budget long on people but short on new weaponry

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Bush submitted a defense budget yesterday that provides significant improvements in military pay and benefits, and in
combat readiness. But it does little to start buying a new generation of weapons the Pentagon says it needs to meet security challenges of the 21st century.

Decisions on the shape and size of the future force will be made in ongoing defense reviews and will be reflected in the next budget, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld said.

Perhaps the most controversial part of the $329 billion spending plan was the proposal to retire 33 of the Air Force's 93 B-1B bombers and all 50 of the Peacekeeper strategic nuclear missiles.

The B-1s, bought nearly two decades ago under then-President Reagan, have been plagued by operational and mechanical problems. The Peacekeepers, with 10 separate nuclear warheads each, must be eliminated under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II, which outlaws multiple-warhead missiles.

The budget proposal also suggests that additional base closures will be requested in 2003.

Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial officer, said the military has about 25 percent too many bases.

Zakheim mentioned no specific bases as candidates for closure. He said Rumsfeld's aides are in the midst of developing a plan for how to proceed on the politically sensitive subject.

"We are all across the map on this," Zakheim said, indicating there was no consensus in the Pentagon on whether there should be a single round of base
closings, multiple rounds or other approaches.

The proposed Pentagon budget is $32.6 billion higher than the current year's defense spending and $18.4 billion more than the preliminary 2002 budget left behind by former President Clinton.

Although Rumsfeld said the budget provided "the biggest increase since the mid-'80s," it was less than military leaders and pro-defense members of
Congress expected. Bush repeatedly told service members and families during last year's campaign that "help is on the way" after eight years of Clinton defense budgets.

The Pentagon reportedly had asked for $30 billion more than the Clinton proposal.

But the spending hike also was denounced by arms-control advocates as excessive in a post-Cold War world.

Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters that since the end of the Cold War the military has been reduced while the nation "harvested a peace dividend." He accused the Clinton administration of having cut military investments too sharply.

"They overshot," Rumsfeld said, adding that "the coasting went on too long," resulting in serious shortages in the armed services.

Rumsfeld conceded that this budget did not correct all the problems. "We simply cannot do everything in a single year," he said.

Critics say the Bush administration found itself with little room to afford the scale of defense spending increases that Rumsfeld initially sought, once Bush
got his top-priority, $1.35 trillion tax cut.

This plan focuses on what Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials called the highest priorities: restoring the morale and quality of life of service members and their families, bolstering combat readiness and beginning the transformation process.

The budget would provide a minimum 5 percent pay raise for all service members, with targeted raises to mid-career officers and enlisted personnel of up to 10 percent. Defense civilian workers would get 3.6 percent more pay.

It also funds increases in housing allowances for service families who live off base, improvements to on-base barracks and housing, and would start
additional projects to have commercial developers build more family housing.

The Pentagon did not provide the usual details of military construction projects. But Navy officials said the budget supports large housing privatization projects for the San Diego Naval Station at 32nd Street and Camp Pendleton.

There will be no reduction in the number of military personnel or units.

The budget seeks a total of $8.3 billion to develop missile defense, with $7 billion for the national defense system and the rest going to Army and Navy theater defense programs.

Although Rumsfeld complained that past shipbuilding budgets have set the Navy on a slide toward a 230-ship fleet, the budget only buys five new ships and partly funds two others. That is well below the rate needed to sustain the 316-ship force.

It provides money for one-third of the new T-AKE supply ships, although the contractor has not been selected. National Steel & Shipbuilding Co. of San
Diego is considered likely to build some, if not all, of the 12 ships in that class.  A contract award is expected by August.

There is money for 76 Navy and Marine aircraft, including 12 MV-22 Ospreys to keep the assembly line going while the troubled aircraft is redesigned.

The Air Force will get 13 of its futuristic F-22 fighters, which has major components from California companies.

The budget also buys 15 more C-17 transports, built at the Boeing plant in Long Beach, and two more Global Hawk unmanned spy planes, produced by the Northrop Grumman facility in San Diego.

The Navy and Air Force will put a total of $1.5 billion into continued development of the Joint Strike Fighter, which is nearing a contract award. California contractors will benefit regardless of which competing team wins
the contract.