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Military News Briefs for the Week of March 2, 2001

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2001 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending March 2, 2001.)



President Bush has recommended a defense budget of $310.5 billion for fiscal 2002. He spoke before a Joint Session of Congress Feb. 27 and called his fiscal 2002 budget request an overall "reasonable" 4 percent over the fiscal 2001 budget.

The budget request concentrates on personnel and includes an extra $1.4 billion boost in military pay and $400 million to build or refurbish military housing. "Our men and women in uniform give America their best, and we owe them our support," Bush said.

In documents released by the Office of Management and Budget, Bush also called for changes in the Cold War strategy that still dominates U.S. military planning. The military must change if it is to remain relevant and able to defend the country and American interests. "We'll promote the peace, and we need a strong military to keep the peace," Bush said. "Our defense vision will drive our budget, not the other way around."

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President Bush may still amend the fiscal 2002 defense budget, but he wants to "engage the brains before the taxpayers' pocketbooks," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a March 1 Pentagon press briefing.

The president submitted a budget with few increases in defense spending until several parts of an overall strategic review are completed and analyzed, Rumsfeld said. He disagreed with critics who've said Bush is breaking a campaign promise to strengthen the military.

"It is the president's budget. ... He preferred to follow through on things he mentioned during the campaign that he believed needed to be looked at," Rumsfeld said. "It seems to me a perfectly responsible thing to do." The secretary mentioned several ongoing aspects being reviewed, including acquisition reform, quality of life issues, defense strategy and DoD's intelligence structure.

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By June, most TRICARE Prime enrollees should know their doctor's name -- TRICARE used to assign patients to a group of primary care providers. Now, they're being assigned to a person by name who will manage their healthcare, said Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) Scott Goodrich, a project officer at the TRICARE Management Activity.

"This is something patients always wanted, but we're just now able to deliver," he said. The initial migration from  the group system to by-name assignments should be complete  by June, he said, though beneficiaries are advised to  expect localized glitches.

Medical staffs say the program's as good for them as for beneficiaries, Goodrich said. "They don't need to spend  valuable patient/provider time collecting your history  every time you come in," Goodrich said. "That time can be  used to focus on other things, like prevention and  wellness." They also appreciate "not being surprised by a  new batch of patients every single day."

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Estimates of mass battle casualties never materialized during the 1991 Gulf War, but the U.S. experience proved no  different from every other conflict -- illness and injuries  felled thousands more troops than combat a decade ago, the  former commander of a joint infectious disease research  unit reported this week.

"Some 28,000 people were hospitalized during the Gulf War  and less than 1,000 of those were from combat-related  injuries," said Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, a retired Navy  physician reported. The chief of staff of the Office of the  Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Gulf War  Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, he  visited many of the 700,000 U.S. troops who deployed to  Southwest Asia.

Kilpatrick said the Gulf War provides many lessons learned:  Many of the noncombat injuries were from sports and  automobile accidents, and therefore were preventable. The  quickness of deployments caught many troops by surprise --  they might have been out of shape or already sick. Remedies  devised since the war include more timely physicals and  medical screens before deployment, he said.

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Hundreds of famil members and friends gathered Feb. 25 in  Greensburg, Pa., to honor loved ones lost during Operation  Desert Storm 10 years ago. At 12:28 p.m. local time -- the  exact time 10 years before that an errant Iraqi Scud  missile struck a temporary barracks housing Army Reserve  soldiers -- bugler and World War II veteran Julius Falcon  blew "Taps." A roll call and 21-gun salute followed.

The Iraqi missile killed 28 U.S. soldiers and wounded 99. Thirteen of the dead and 43 of the wounded were from the  Greensburg-based 14th Quartermaster Detachment. The little  water purification unit sent 69 people to war and suffered  the highest casualty rate of any coalition unit.

The ceremony was one of several around the nation marking  the 10th anniversary of the end of Operation Desert Storm.  Gulf War fighting officially ceased Feb. 28, 1991. Nearly  470,000 active duty U.S. troops served in the operation;  217,000 guardsmen and reservists were called to active  duty. Nearly 300 Americans died in service.

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