Washington, Feb. 7 (Reuters): President George W. Bush today called for a 5 per cent boost in US defence spending to $419.3 billion next year, making the Pentagon one of the budget's few winners though facing a slowdown in growth after post-September 11, 2001, surges.
The request to speed modernisation of the Cold War military, sent to the US Congress in a $2.5 trillion fiscal 2006 federal budget, would boost Pentagon spending by 4.8 per cent and is sure to create heated debate among lawmakers.
The Pentagon budget also does not include funding for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those tens of billions of dollars would come later from separate 'supplemental' requests to lawmakers. 'We've got a healthy increase (request) for the year,' a senior defence official said. 'Since 2001, we're up 41 per cent in the defence budget.' But the request for the slightly more than $18 billion in new Pentagon spending is smaller than the 7 per cent boost Bush asked for in fiscal 2005.
More than half of the proposed increase would be swallowed by basic spending on 'operations and maintenance' to keep warplanes, ships and other equipment in the world's premier military ready for combat. That 'operations and maintenance' figure would rise by $10.8 billion to $147.8 billion in 2006. The cost of military personnel would also rise $4.9 billion to $108.9 billion, most of that for a 3.1 per cent pay raise for the troops.
Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the fight against terrorism sparked by the 2001 attacks on the US requires heavy spending to create a high-tech force. The six-year US defence plan beginning next year also includes anticipated increases to $443.1 billion in fiscal 2007, $462.4 billion in 2008, $482 billion in 2009, $492.1 billion in 2010 and $502.3 billion in 2011.
The military budget for the year beginning next October 1 calls for higher spending for expansion of elite forces to fight the US war on terrorism.