WASHINGTON – The Pentagon's proposed $380 billion budget for 2004 reflects Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's decision to shift spending priorities from improving today's weapons to developing tomorrow's.
Rumsfeld wants to cancel or curtail numerous weapons programs, including planned improvements to the Army's Abrams battle tank, and put hundreds of millions into futuristic weapons like drone aircraft that would launch bombs and missiles and the Global Hawk unmanned spy plane to replace the Air Force's U-2s.
The proposed spending for the budget year starting Oct. 1 is $15.3 billion higher than the current budget, reflecting a 4.2 percent increase, and actual Pentagon spending will be even higher because the administration intends to ask Congress for at least one "supplemental" budget of $15 billion or more to pay for fighting the war on terrorism.
If there is a war against Iraq, the Pentagon will need even more money. And the aftermath of war -- to include finding and securing any weapons of mass destruction and helping to rebuild the country -- will cost untold billions more. The Pentagon has refused to disclose its early estimates of the likely cost of an Iraq war.
The budget plan the administration presented to Congress on Monday projects even greater increases in defense spending in coming years. It would grow to $400 billion in 2005, $440 billion by 2007 and $483 billion in 2009 -- and those totals do not include roughly $17 billion each year that would go to the Energy Department for defense-related nuclear programs.
Congress authorizes and appropriates money for the Pentagon only one year at a time; the "out year" spending projections are for planning purposes. Rumsfeld says he would like to change to two-year budgets.
The 2004 budget proposes military pay raises ranging from 2 percent for the most junior troops to 6.2 percent for certain higher ranks that the Pentagon believes are the most difficult to keep filled.
The size of the active-duty military would remain steady at 1.39 million men and women.
By service, the spending would be divided as follows:
--Army, $93.7 billion, up 3 percent.
--Navy, including the Marine Corps, $114.6 billion, up 3.5 percent.
--Air Force, $113.7 billion, up 5.7 percent.
--The rest of the Defense Department would get $57.9 billion, up 3 percent.
Although the Bush administration strongly suggested when it took office in 2001 that it was inclined to cancel at least one of the Pentagon's three next-generation fighter aircraft programs -- and possibly also the Marine Corps' troubled V-22 Osprey helicopter-airplane hybrid -- all of them have survived.
The Air Force would get $5.2 billion next year to buy 22 of its F/A-22 strike fighters; the Navy would get $3.5 billion to buy 42 of its F/A-18 Super Hornets and the multiservice Joint Strike Fighter, which is not yet in production, would get $4.4 billion.
The Pentagon would spend $1.1 billion to buy 11 V-22 Ospreys, including the first two special operations variants to be used by the Air Force. Another $544 million would be spent on V-22 testing and evaluation.
Among other highlights of the proposed budget:
--$610 million for the Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance plane, which operates without a pilot. And $250 million for the Predator unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, including money to buy 14 more of them. Another $275 million would go to developing a drone aircraft for attack missions.
--Missile defense would get $7.7 billion, about the same as this year.
--The Navy would get a $2.7 billion increase for shipbuilding, including $1.5 billion for a new aircraft carrier with an upgraded design intended to enable the Navy to use a smaller crew. It is supposed to enter service in 2007 with some capabilities that had not been scheduled to be ready until 2011.
--The Navy would get $1.2 billion to convert four Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarines to conventional subs capable of carrying more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles each and a contingent of special operations forces.
--The Air Force would get $3.7 billion to buy 11 more C-17 transport planes.
--The Army's next-generation Comanche reconnaissance helicopter would get $1.1 billion in development funds.