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Pentagon Budget Funds Anti-Missile Program
by Jim Mannion
Washington (AFP) February 8, 2000 -  The Pentagon unveiled a 291.1 billion dollar budget proposal for fiscal 2001 Monday that would fully fund deployment of a controversial national missile defense system.

The proposal also seeks to boost flagging morale with pay raises and bigger housing allowances for military personnel.

If approved by Congress, the proposal would add 4.8 billion dollars to the defense budget -- the second consecutive year of increased US military spending since the end of the Cold War.

Rising oil prices and the cost of maintaining US troops in the Balkans accounted for much of the increase, senior Pentagon officials said.

The proposal would raise spending on national missile defense to 10.4 billion dollars over the next five years, a 2.3 billion dollar increase and enough to fund the deployment of the system by 2005 should President Bill Clinton give the go ahead later this year, the Pentagon said.

"Basically what you have here is a fully funded program awaiting a presidential decision on deployment," a senior defense official told reporters last week.

The money would be used to upgrade early warning radar facilities, build a radar complex in Alaska, supply 100 interceptor missiles, and fund additional testing of the system, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Opposed by Russia, China and some US allies, the system is designed to defend all 50 US states against a limited ballistic missile attack by a country like North Korea or Iran.

It failed in an attempted intercept of a target missile last month over the Pacific, but a deployment decision is expected to come this summer after another test of the system.

"We've got to have one that works and does so with consistency before we put this kind of money into it," a senior US military official told reporters last week. "So we still got more testing to do."

In other ways, the budget figures sketch a portrait of a military that is still struggling to adjust to the turbulent international security environment that has replaced the past superpower face-off.

Peacekeeping operations around the world continue to make major demands on the US military budget: 4.7 billion dollars were allocated for contingencies in Bosnia, Kosovo and Southwest Asia for 2001, the officials said.

The Pentagon also is seeking an extra 2.2 billion dollars to cover unanticipated peacekeeping costs in Kosovo and East Timor and to train Colombian anti-drug battalions, they said.

Morale problems, stemming in part from the proliferating contingencies and the lure of abundant higher paying civilian jobs, have prompted the Pentagon to seek money for a 3.7 percent pay raise, which would follow a 4.8 percent increase this year.

The budget proposal also would increase housing allowances for troops living off base, improve health insurance coverage for their families and pay for retirement benefits enacted this year.

Lessons from the NATO air war against Yugoslavia last year found their way into the budget proposal in the form of funding for weapons that proved to be in high demand but short supply.

They include another squadron of EA-6B electronic warfare planes, accelerated production of the highly effective satellite-guided J-DAM bombs, and quicker acquisition of the Global Hawk, a high-flying surveillance drone that can loiter over a battlefield for long periods of time.

The army, which found its heavy tank force too ungainly to be of use in Kosovo, budgeted 4.5 billion dollars for procurement of medium weight armored vehicles for new faster deploying combat units.

Copyright 1999 AFP. All rights reserved. The material on this page is provided by AFP and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MILSPACE
Cohen Says Missile Defense On Track
 Washington (AFP) January 28, 2000 - US Defense Secretary William Cohen expressed confidence Friday in the National Missile Defense (NMD) system despite a failed test over the Pacific last week, revealing that the interceptor missile came within 100 feet (30 meters) of its target.




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