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Obama vows to help troops, cut weapon programs

Apart from the F-22 Raptor fighters, which cost about 350 million dollars each, other candidates for possible cuts are F-35 and F-18E/F aircraft, the Navy's new generation destroyer -- the DDG-1000, a new amphibious ship, and computer-linked Army vehicles, known as Future Combat Systems.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 25, 2009
President Barack Obama said his upcoming budget would increase the number of US soldiers, state the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cut "Cold War-era" weapons programs.

Setting out his priorities for military spending, Obama said late Tuesday in his first address to a joint session of Congress that he wanted to provide relief to men and women in uniform with higher pay and more boots on the ground.

"To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines," Obama said.

"And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned."

More than seven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have put unprecedented pressure on the all-volunteer military and their families, with top officers blaming a recent spike in suicides in the army on the relentless pace of deployments.

Obama's promise to raise the number of soldiers and Marines appears in line with the military's plans to expand its ground forces by nearly 100,000 troops.

Vowing to restore "honesty and accountability" to government spending, Obama said his budget "for the first time includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price," he said to applause.

Obama's jab at former president George W. Bush referred to his predecessor's controversial method of accounting for the cost of the two wars through "supplemental" funding requests outside of the main defense budget.

He said his administration would scrap wasteful contract work in Iraq and impose tough scrutiny on mammoth weapons systems that grew out of the Cold War, though he offered no specifics.

"We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use," Obama said.

The 612 billion dollar defense authorization bill signed by Bush in September represented the largest in real terms since World War II, and probably the peak of a seven-year buildup dating to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

With a grave economic crisis and an expected 1.3 trillion dollar deficit, big cuts are expected in the vast US defense budget -- which represents more than 40 percent of the world's total military spending.

Administration officials hope some of the savings will come from a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, where 142,000 troops are stationed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already warned of major cutbacks, citing expensive weapons programs such as the F-22 fighter aircraft as possible targets.

"It's obviously one of the programs that, along with a number of others -- many others -- that we will be looking at," Gates said earlier this month.

The United States cannot "eliminate national-security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything," Gates wrote in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

New weapons "have grown ever more baroque, have become ever more costly, are taking longer to build and are being fielded in ever dwindling quantities," he said.

The military has struggled to strike a balance between the demands of counter-insurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to prepare for conventional warfare as a hedge against rising powers like China.

Gates has made clear that counter-insurgency is the immediate priority, and that fleets of new ships, squadrons of sophisticated aircraft and a network of hi-tech army vehicles may be of little use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apart from the F-22 Raptor fighters, which cost about 350 million dollars each, other candidates for possible cuts are F-35 and F-18E/F aircraft, the Navy's new generation destroyer -- the DDG-1000, a new amphibious ship, and computer-linked Army vehicles, known as Future Combat Systems.

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BMD Watch: LM wins Aegis upgrade contract
Washington (UPI) Feb 20, 2009
Lockheed Martin has won a $78.6 million contract from the U.S. Navy to create a new generation of computing equipment, voice communications and console displays for the Aegis Modernization and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense programs.

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