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Bush seeks big jump in missile defense

President Bush will ask Congress to boost spending on missile defense by $1.2 billion next year and nearly double funding to modernize the Army, defense documents showed Friday.
/ Source: Reuters

The Bush administration will ask Congress to boost spending on missile defense by $1.2 billion next year and nearly double funding to modernize the Army in the $401.7 billion military budget for 2005, according to defense documents released Friday.

The defense plan is part of the $2.3 trillion federal budget proposal that President Bush will send to lawmakers Monday. It includes a 7 percent increase in defense spending over the current level of $375 billion.

The Defense Department said the defense budget documents — scheduled to be formally released Monday with the president’s overall budget — were inadvertently posted Friday on the Internet but were later removed.

Big boost for Patriot system
The administration seeks to boost funding for its controversial missile defense program by 13 percent next year, to $10.2 billion, from $9 billion it requested for fiscal 2004.

The new figure includes spending of $9.1 billion by the Missile Defense Agency in 2005, up from $7.6 billion, as well as the Army’s Patriot missile program.

The Defense Department’s plan to begin deploying the initial parts of a missile defense shield by September has drawn sharp criticism from some U.S. allies and Democrats who say it has not been adequately tested and could spark an arms race in space.

The budget also calls for $3.2 billion for the Army’s Future Combat System, a high-tech plan to make soldiers more mobile and lethal in the post-Cold War world. That is up from $1.7 billion in the current year.

The military plans to spend $74.9 billion to buy weapons and other equipment in fiscal 2005, which starts Oct. 1. For this year, the Defense Department asked Congress for $72.5 billion, but actual spending on weapons systems rose to $81.1 billion because of extra war-related spending approved by lawmakers.

The requested $74.9 billion is also expected to increase sharply under a supplemental spending request expected from the administration after the presidential election in November.

The defense budget does not include up to $40 billion or more in supplemental spending for military operations in Iraq, which congressional sources and analysts said the White House could seek from Congress late this year or early next year.

The budget calls for almost $4.6 billion for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, up from $4.25 billion requested in 2004. The program to develop a long-range stealth fighter includes more than a dozen foreign partners, including Britain, the Netherlands and Australia.

Wall Street pays attention
The defense budget made waves on Wall Street, with analysts probing the documents for clues on the futures of key defense contractors like Lockheed, Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics Corp..

“Boeing appears well served by this budget proposal,” Robert Spingarn, an analyst for Wachovia Securities, said in a research note. Boeing is the lead contractor for both the ground-based missile defense program and the Future Combat System.

The 2005 budget asks Congress for almost $69 billion in weapons research and development, up from the $64.7 billion it sought last year.

The documents showed that Bush will seek to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin’s F/A-22 Raptor fighter aircraft in fiscal 2005, for a total of $3.6 billion, up from the 22 jets the Defense Department requested a year ago.

The Air Force would get three V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in 2005 for $305.6 million, up from the two requested in the fiscal year at a cost of $213.7 million, according to the documents.

The Osprey, which suffered two high-profile crashes in 2000, killing 23 Marines, is being built by Boeing and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter division for the Marine Corps, the Air Force and Special Operations forces.