San Diego Union Tribune

May 6, 2004

Hunter seeks boost in troop strength

OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON In a break with the Bush administration, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said yesterday his panel will authorize an increase of 30,000 soldiers and 9,000 Marines to meet the continuing demands on the U.S. military.

The committee also will authorize additional funds for body armor, armor-plated vehicles and other equipment to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hunter said.

The additional personnel will cost $4 billion a year, but the increased cost of the force protection equipment will be offset by cutting "lower priority" programs, he said.

The increase in troop strength could face a tough fight in the Senate because of opposition by the administration and by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va.

Hunter said the administration has resisted the increase because the Pentagon is concerned that additional personnel would take funds needed for new weapons.