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Defense Budget, Missile System on Agenda for Bush Security Meeting - 2002-08-20

President Bush meets Wednesday with his top national security advisors. They are expected to discuss defense spending and new weapons systems.

It will be the president's first meeting with his national security team during this August vacation at his Texas ranch.

He will be joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice along with other senior officials.

They are expected to discuss next year's defense budget and plans for a new missile defense system now that the United State has withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Secretary Rumsfeld is going to Texas with the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to give President Bush an update on technologies to intercept missiles fired at the United States or U.S. troops abroad.

"One of the topics is missile defense, where we have reached a point in the evolution of the development of that program that it is appropriate to bring the president up to date," he said.

Wednesday's meeting comes at a time of heightened speculation about possible U.S. military action against Iraq. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he can't rule out that Iraq may be a topic, but he added that the focus of the meeting is "much bigger than that."

As evidence, Mr. Fleischer says Army General Tommy Franks, who would likely lead a possible military attack on Iraq, will not be present for Wednesday's talks.

Instead, the meeting is expected to focus on the future of U.S. military spending to create a more modern, flexible force. It is similar to a session the president held at his ranch last August to discuss Secretary Rumsfeld's plans to transform the U.S. military.