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Rumsfeld: Huge Defense Budget a Bargain Compared with September 11 Losses - 2002-02-04


The Bush administration has unveiled a new $379 billion defense budget for the coming fiscal year. The proposed spending plan reflects a $48 billion increase, the largest in two decades.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says economic losses stemming from last September's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington amounted to billion and billions of dollars.

Compared to that, Mr. Rumsfeld says the proposed new defense budget, despite its record size, is a bargain.

"It is very clear that the defense budget is cheap when one compares it to putting our security at risk, our lives at risk, our country at risk, our freedoms at risk," he said.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld predicts the new budget will get a favorable reception from the American people and Congress, just as they supported increased military expenditures during the Cold War.

The new budget shows the administration's top priorities are homeland defense, fighting terrorism and transforming the armed forces into a 21 century fighting force.

Much of the proposed new funding will go for pay raises and improved living conditions for the military as well as operations and maintenance. But there is also a new emphasis on such equipment purchases as precision-guided munitions and unmanned spy planes and building up elite special operations commando units.

In addition, there is money for a new model Stealth fighter, more transport aircraft and several new ships. The controversial missile defense program would also get close to eight billion dollars.

But Mr. Rumsfeld emphasizes that transforming the military is more than just dollars and cents and new equipment.

"Transformation and the budget that supports it is about an awful lot more than bombs and bullets and dollars and cents. It's about new approaches, it's about culture, it's about mindset and ways of thinking of things. If there is one thing that has become clear since September 11th, and our activities in Afghanistan, it is that we clearly not only need to win the war on terror today but we also need to be prepared to win the wars of tomorrow," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld says that means confronting challenges and threats quite different from those faced during the Cold War.

The Defense Secretary is now set to make a series of appearances before congressional committees to defend the budget.