WASHINGTON – The Pentagon announced plans Friday to increase special operations forces, expand psychological warfare and develop a program to fight biological terrorism as part of a military strategy for the 21st century.
The plan comes three days before President Bush sends Congress a 2007 budget that seeks a nearly 5 percent increase in Defense Department spending to $439.3 billion, with significantly more for weapons programs, according to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
While the long-range plan released Friday does much to reshape the military to respond to terrorism threats, it also emphasizes continued U.S. dominance for conventional warfare.
Echoing characterizations by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the plan calls China the greatest future threat, saying that country has "the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States."
In response, the plan calls for stronger partnerships with allies, beefed-up surveillance and improved language and cultural awareness abilities.
The proposal drew criticism from analysts who said it does little to match the Pentagon's wish list of programs with the money that will likely be available.
The review "fails to recommend the level of divestment in more traditional areas that is likely to be necessary to make these new initiatives affordable over the long run," said Steven Kosiak, an analyst at the private Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The plan calls for an increase in special operations forces by 15 percent, including the establishment of the first Marine Corps commando unit.
And there will be a one-third increase — a jump of 3,700 — in troops assigned to psychological warfare and civil affairs units. That would include efforts to communicate better with people in countries where the military is deployed, said Ryan Henry, principal deputy defense secretary for policy.
There also will be a new five-year, $1.5 billion program to develop medical countermeasures for bioterrorism threats.
The plan, called the Quadrennial Defense Review, will reduce the number of Minuteman III land-based nuclear missiles from 500 to 450, and calls for the conversion of a small number of nuclear missiles aboard Trident submarines to non-nuclear ballistic missiles. But it does not call for the elimination of any of the largest weapons programs, as initially expected.
The long-range strategy document, more than a year in the making, broadly outlines plans to reshape the military into a more agile fighting force better able to fight terrorism in what the document calls "the Long War." It would also preserve the U.S. ability to wage conventional wars.
The review also maps some new directions for Pentagon spending, proposals that mostly will require congressional approval.
"Now in the fifth year of this global war, the ideas and proposals in this document are provided as a roadmap for change, leading to victory," Rumsfeld said in a letter accompanying the document. This represents the second four-year review that Rumsfeld has led during his tenure heading the department.
As part of the effort to focus the military more toward handling terrorists, the plan calls for doubling purchases of unmanned aircraft, particularly for surveillance; developing a new long-range bomber force; and building strong partnerships with other nations and other U.S. government agencies.
While no major programs are eliminated, the review would scale back the number of B-52s to 56; reduce the number of Navy aircraft carriers from 12 to 11, a proposal rejected by Congress last year; and cut the Air Force by 40,000 jobs.
The defense budget, meanwhile, would include $84.2 billion for weapons programs, a nearly 8 percent increase, including billions of dollars for fighter jets, Navy ships, helicopters and unmanned aircraft. The total includes a substantial increase in weapons spending for the Army, which would get $16.8 billion in the 2007 budget, compared with $11 billion this year.
Senior defense officials provided budget totals on condition of anonymity because the defense budget was not being released publicly until Monday. The figures did not include about $50 billion that Bush administration officials said Thursday they would request as a down payment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. The administration said war costs for 2006 would total $120 billion.
The budget proposal represents the fifth consecutive year that spending on weapons has increased, after years of cutbacks during the 1990s.