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Bush Administration Unveils $400 Billion Defense Budget - 2003-02-03

The Bush administration has unveiled a nearly $400 billion national defense budget for 2004.

The budget figures would, if approved by Congress, give the Defense Department nearly $380 billion next year. With another $20 billion for nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy, the total national security budget for next year amounts to nearly $400 billion.

That represents a four percent increase for 2004.

The administration's long-range plan for military expenditures would see the budget rise to more than $500 billion by 2009.

The Pentagon says the theme of the new budget is, "Meeting today's threats while preparing for tomorrow's challenges."

The budget focuses funds on the transformation of the armed forces into areas seen critical to the war on terrorism and other unconventional threats.

For example, the country's elite Special Operations forces will get a 50 percent increase in funds from $3 billion to $4.5 billion. The Pentagon also plans to increase by about 2,000 the number of personnel involved in commando activities and would convert four ballistic missile submarines to vessels capable of launching cruise missiles and carrying special operations forces.

The administration also proposes increased spending on unmanned aerial vehicles, including remote-controlled spy planes like the Predator that have played a key role in the war in Afghanistan and reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

Other highlights of the proposed 2004 budget include expanded spending on chemical-biological protection programs, more money for the nation's missile defense efforts, and increased funding for new satellite, radar, computer and communications equipment. Money is also earmarked, if approved, for a small number of new ships and aircraft.

One area the budget ignores is the possible cost of a war with Iraq. No special provisions are included because senior defense officials say those costs are unknown. If there is a war, the administration will have to seek a supplemental appropriation.