President Bush's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October calls for an increase of nearly seven percent in defense spending to $439 billion, and that does not include most of the cost for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The budget calls for increases in spending for military Special Forces, missile defense, unmanned aircraft and new, smaller nuclear missiles. The budget includes $73 billion for research into new weapons systems. And it also includes a nearly 13 percent increase in funding for the U.S. army, which has been stretched by large troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weapons purchases are allocated $84 billion, including the purchase of 42 new F-18 fighter jets. And the department is planning a further substantial increase in its team working on technology and tactics to defeat insurgent bombs, the most deadly weapon in the Iraq conflict.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld characterized the budget at a news conference on Monday. "It reflects what we believe should be the country's national security priorities, namely to help defend the United States of America and the American people and their interests, to give flexibility to commanders, to prepare for both conventional and unconventional, or irregular warfare and, importantly, to work closely with partner nations to help them develop the capabilities needed to defeat terrorists within their borders, and to cooperate with us and other countries with respect to this global threat," he said.
The defense spending is about 16 percent of President Bush's overall proposed budget of $2.77 trillion. But most of the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will be covered by a supplemental request next year, which the White House says will be about $50 billion. The supplemental request for the current year is expected to be about $70 billion.
The defense budget also does not include about $9 billion for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, which is maintained by the Energy Department.
Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out that although the defense budget is large, it is only about 3.7 percent of the overall annual output of the U.S. economy, the gross domestic product, compared to five percent 20 years ago and 10 percent 25 years before that.
And while most of the headlines from the new U.S. defense budget are related to high technology and more flexible forces to fight terrorists and insurgents, Secretary Rumsfeld defended the decision to continue to spend large amounts on conventional forces, including the new fighter planes and advanced ships for the navy. "We have been very successful in deterring the threat from large navies, armies and air forces. On the other hand, those threats haven't disappeared, and the kinds of capabilities that are necessary to continue to see that they are deterred and dissuaded require investments," he said.
Secretary Rumsfeld says this budget begins to invest in areas identified as high priorities in the major review of defense policy that was published on Friday.