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Defense Is More Than 20 Percent of Bush's 2008 Budget

More than 20 percent of next year's budget that President Bush presented to the Congress Monday is defense spending, some $623 billion. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon on what the Defense Department plans to do with all that money.

For the first time since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, the Pentagon has listed them as a separate budget item, totaling nearly $148 billion. The rest of the Defense Department budget will go to such things as paying salaries, buying new equipment and weapons, building new ships and aircraft, and increasing the size of the army and the Marine Corps.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the money is needed to maintain the readiness and capability of the U.S. military and to recruit and retain enough people for the all-volunteer force. And while the Congress now controlled by the Democratic Party will likely make many changes in the defense budget, and possibly reduce it, Secretary Gates says in its proper context $623 billion is not too much.

"Since 1993, when I first served in government, the defense budget has actually taken a smaller relative share of our national wealth, while the world has gotten more complicated and arguably more dangerous," said Robert Gates. "The resources we devote to defense should be at the level to adequately meet the challenges of the global strategic environment the United States faces today."

Among the defense programs that will receive more money in the coming year, if the Congress approves, are military space programs, which will have a 25 percent increase, and military purchasing programs, which will increase by 20 percent. Part of that is related to equipment destroyed or worn out in Iraq or Afghanistan, and part is an effort to modernize the U.S. military.

Programs receiving less money include missile defense, military intelligence, the effort to combat roadside bombs and military aid to Iraq and Afghanistan. But those programs could get more money later in the year in an expected supplemental budget request that is designed to cover unanticipated costs of the wars.

As he released next year's budget Monday, President Bush informed the Congress he will soon submit his defense budget supplemental request for the current year, in the amount of $93 billion.