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Wartime Budget Less Than Late-70's Peacetime-Era Costs

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2002 – The Pentagon's chief financial officer said Feb. 14 that DoD's fiscal '03 budget proposal of $379 billion contains far fewer dollars than late-'70s, peacetime-era military costs.

Today's proposed DoD wartime budget "is only 3.3 percent of America's gross domestic product," or the value all the goods and services produced in the country, Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim said in a Pentagon interview with the American Forces Information Service. The premium we're paying on our security insurance has gone down."

During the post-Vietnam period of the late '70s, the so- called "years of neglect," Zakheim explained, the cash-poor U.S. military often cannibalized equipment to obtain spare parts for repairs. However, he noted, in those years, the United States spent 4.5 percent to 5 percent of its gross domestic product on military needs. That would make today's proposed DoD budget a relative bargain, he said.

At a Feb. 4 Pentagon press briefing on the '03 budget proposal, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, accompanied by Zakheim, told reporters, "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."

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, the Pentagon, and aboard the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania took more than 3,000 lives and caused suffering and misery to the wounded and to families of all the victims. However, the damage didn't end there. Zakheim said the negative economic impact of the attacks, including business and job losses, is estimated at three-quarters of a trillion dollars and climbing.

He noted the economic damage would probably go up because of unemployment, particularly in the New York area -- "shops, service providers, are all losing out."

The proposed DoD fiscal '03 budget, Zakheim remarked, takes into account the changed circumstances the United States finds itself in as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We're buying forces and equipment and capabilities to deal with all kinds of unforeseen contingencies," he said.

America "is now in a two-front war, and the second front, the home front, is going to be a real concern for us for many years to come," Zakheim concluded.

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