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2003 Acquisition Budget Redresses Some Past Neglect

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2003 – Military and defense officials have said the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act goes a long way toward redressing some of the modernization problems that have plagued the U.S. military.

The overall acquisition budget for this year was pegged at $73.7 billion -- about $5 billion more than President Bush sought in his budget request.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said defense planners overshot the mark for when the acquisition budget needed to be recapitalized. The conventional wisdom through most of the 1990s was that the United States could afford a procurement "holiday" given the end of the Cold War and military downsizing. In June 2001, Rumsfeld said the holiday went on too long.

"They started drawing down after the Cold War, and instead of stopping, they overshot the mark and went way too far," he said. "So we haven't been buying new equipment, and the older equipment is wearing out."

As early as 1996, DoD officials realized modernization programs needed to be increased and virtually predicted then that neglect would lead to what Rumsfeld said has happened. Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. John Shalikashvili called for a modernization budget of $60 billion. The department consistently missed that target. In 1997, the procurement budget was $42 billion. In 1998, it was $48 billion.

Then came Sept. 11 and new challenges. The global war on terrorism had to be funded. Rumsfeld flatly stated the U.S. military has to combat these new threats, and yet it also has to transform to meet threats military planners cannot even foresee. The shift in acquisition strategy was immediate. The military would buy "capabilities," not specific weapon systems aimed at specific threats.

So this fiscal 2003 budget allows DoD to acquire the weapon systems needed to fight the global war on terrorism while also laying the groundwork for future capabilities. For example, the 2003 budget replenishes the precision-guided munitions used in Afghanistan and stocks up the American arsenal for any contingency.

And while high-dollar weapon systems such as the Air Force F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter program grab the headlines, less-noticed, vital communications technologies that will tie the services together were big winners in the current year's budget, said DoD officials. The communications revolution of the 1990s continues, and military officials are buying these technologies and putting them to use in innovative ways. The budget funds secure communications technologies, new communications systems that talk across service boundaries and new sensor packages that will give commanders real-time intelligence.

But transformation and modernization cannot be limited to funding one or two years in the future. Longer-term investments have to be made. For instance, the defense science and technology budget -- the transformation "driver" -- is receiving plenty of attention. Overall, the S&T budget was set at $10.7 billion. This missed DoD's self-imposed goal of 3 percent of its budget going to science and technology, but it is still an increase from years past, Rumsfeld said during testimony early in February 2002.

The administration is readying the president's fiscal 2004 Defense Budget Request to Congress in early February. Officials said the request would continue the push to transforming the military and modernizing equipment.

And though the spotlight's on equipment, Rumsfeld knows equipment alone isn't enough. "All the high-tech weapons in the world won't transform our armed forces unless we also transform the way we think, the way we train, the way we exercise and the way we fight," he said during testimony in February 2002.

And less than a month from the 2004 budget rollout, Rumsfeld continues the transformation drum beat. At the Jan. 14 Marine commandant's change of command ceremony, he said: "We are truly fortunate to have men and women of courage who are able to look over the horizon at what is possible, and to help in transforming the military to meet the new challenges we face in this dangerous new century."

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