Tags: Billion | More | Sought | for | Pentagon

$6 Billion More Sought for Pentagon

Thursday, 31 May 2001 12:00 AM

The supplemental request, however, has not yet been made public.

The amount will be used to cover higher-than-expected health care costs for military personnel, retirees and their families. It will also be used to fund a pay raise for mid- and senior-level personnel and increase service members' housing allowances, the Pentagon's new comptroller, Dov Zakheim, said Thursday.

The supplemental request will also fund maintenance for aircraft so they fly can enough hours for pilots to maintain their proficiency, and to fund anti-terrorism force protection measures.

In addition, the money will be used to pay higher-than-expected energy costs. According to the document, the price of electricity and natural gas has increased 158 percent since last year.

Also covered in the request is funding for the C-17 strategic airlifter, the nascent Airborne Laser missile defense program, cost growth on ships already under contract and the cost associated with recovering the remains of the nine Japanese victims of the USS Greeneville submarine accident.

The request also includes money to "accelerate the transformation of U.S. military capabilities to counter post Cold War threats more decisively," the document said.

Included in that category would be an improvement to the intelligence community's ability to detect terrorist threats, information warfare activities, accelerated fielding of a long-range, unmanned reconnaissance drone named Global Hawk, and development of miniature munitions "to increase payload capabilities of combat aircraft."

Congress will not have to appropriate the full $6.1 billion, however, because the Pentagon is requesting a decrease of $475 million from the V-22 Osprey program and $30 million from the B-52 bomber modification program.

After two crashes last year and a series of investigations, an independent panel recommended that the V-22 program be restructured to allow for more testing and development, delaying its procurement and freeing up funding.

Zakheim indicated that this would be the last supplemental appropriation request the Pentagon would make under President George W. Bush if at all possible.

Zakheim declared at his first news conference Thursday that he would usher in a new era of discipline and trust for the military, one characterized by annual budgets that reflect the needs of the military and won't rely on late-year infusions of cash.

The Bush administration means to end the "gamesmanship" and "pathology" it believes characterized the previous approach to building a military budget, according to Zakheim.

Bush "is not very comfortable at all with the way budgets have been dealt with over the years … deliberately underfunding (Pentagon accounts) in anticipation of a supplemental" appropriation request, Zakheim said.

"We're trying to go back to basics," he said.

Zakheim suggested that the military under the previous administration felt like it had to low-ball its budget to get White House approval, only to turn around and ask Congress for more money later to pay its actual bills, a process he said deeply affected the military.

"The services didn't like this. There were forced by the nature of a system gone awry, and we're just not going to put them in that position," Zakheim said.

"I've watched morale just plummet in this place. There was a total lack of trust," Zakheim said. "There is a tremendous desire to just be honest with this stuff … If there is no trust people will resort to strategizing."

"It was felt we had to go cold turkey," he said, explaining Bush's initial reluctance to approve additional spending this year by the Pentagon, which already has a $296 billion budget.

The 2001 budget has $6.5 billion left for the entire government's supplemental needs. Zakheim refused to pinpoint the exact amount the Defense Department will get, but said it totals roughly 90 percent of that amount, about $5.8 billion.

"There are not going to be major spending initiatives," Zakheim said. "It is not a supplemental that is going to end-run the way the system should work."

He said the amount will be "what can be realistically executed when it is needed to be executed."

The service chiefs went to Capitol Hill in January, before Bush was installed at the White House to say they anticipated they would need about $13 billion to carry out their programs and operations this year.

It was not an unusual request. Since just after the Gulf War, the Pentagon has come to rely on a mid-year adjustment to its budget to cover the costs of peacekeeping missions and unexpected contingencies like Haiti, Somalia and Kosovo and the ongoing flights over Iraq.

The Pentagon has argued that it cannot adequately budget for those operations because it is never sure how much will be required from year to year. So each winter the service chiefs go to Congress armed with "wish lists" for a supplemental appropriation. Some of the requests are for new money for programs, to accelerate the purchase of a weapon, and some are more genuinely tied to their needs, say, for flying hours for pilots or steaming hours for ships to train at sea. The requests also have included money to reconstitute stores of high-cost precision munitions, the weapon of choice in conflict because of their accuracy.

Military officials have been agitating for a supplemental appropriation for months, saying if it came too late the armed forces would have already canceled late-year training exercises in order to pay near-term bills.

But their $13 billion request also included money for favored programs, such as the F-22 and the V-22, money not directly connected to the military's readiness and training.

Zakheim sidestepped blame for the late supplemental, suggesting the delay could be blamed on the truncated transition process that resulted from the delayed election, and ethics rules that prevent prospective government appointees from carrying out their duties before confirmation.

"I've been on board two-and-a-half weeks," he said. "That wasn't my fault. It's just the way the system works."

Zakheim said the Defense Department will submit to Congress a modest supplemental request for this year's budget on Thursday, and a request to boost the 2002 budget sometime next month. Real change, however, will not occur until the president submits the 2003 defense budget request in March 2002.

The '02 and '03 budget will include dramatic increases for missile defense and money to begin introducing high-tech weapons, Zakheim said.

Funding for missile defense has been "seriously inadequate … we are obviously going to have to put more money in that program," he said.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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The supplemental request, however, has not yet been made public. The amount will be used to cover higher-than-expected health care costs for military personnel, retirees and their families. It will also be used to fund a pay raise for mid- and senior-level personnel and...
Thursday, 31 May 2001 12:00 AM
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