Terror War Needs Funded in Proposed 2005 Defense Budget
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2004 Top priority in the president's fiscal 2005 defense budget request goes to funding -- and winning -- the war on terror, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim told reporters here today.
The $401.7 billion request, Zakheim said, will provide "robust" funding for force readiness needs while covering the cost of systems needed immediately to support the war on terror. These include missile defense, unmanned aerial vehicles, Stryker vehicles, advanced ships and "up-armored" humvees.
Zakheim called the reinforced humvees, part of a force protection initiative first introduced in the fiscal 2004 budget, "very, very important" to the safety of deployed U.S. troops. "We have to protect our troops, both when they are on the ground and when they are mobile," he said.
The proposed budget also funds future acquisition needs that will enhance the U.S. military's ability to face future security challenges, Zakheim said. This includes laser communications that free users from bandwidth constraints and provide more capabilities, space-based radar capable of identifying and tracking moving ground targets, a joint tactical radio that promotes information exchange, and cruise-missile defense.
The budget request also would fund improvements to the department's intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Zakheim said the proposed fiscal 2005 budget will give the Defense Department more authority to shift funds between existing programs that support the terror war. These include programs that authorize the United States to train and equip Iraq's and Afghanistan's military and security forces, fund humanitarian and reconstruction needs in the region, and provide U.S. military equipment to the Afghan National Army.
The fiscal 2005 budget requests up to $500 million for "train and equip" support in Iraq, Afghanistan, and friendly nearby regional nations. Zakheim credits the program with helping to mold raw Afghan recruits into "a sophisticated force that operates along with us" in Afghanistan. He said Iraq's security forces -- particularly the civil defense force, facilities protection force, and border police -- require similar support to deflect threats to the country's internal stability.
The budget request provides up to $300 million in additional authority for the Commanders Emergency Response Program, which Zakheim called "probably the single most successful program in Iraq today."
The program gives field commanders, particularly brigade commanders, funds to support immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Zakheim said the fund enables commanders to spend money much as a local city council might: on health care, electricity, food distribution, sanitation, education, irrigation and telecommunications projects.
The benefits of the program far exceed the average $7,000-per-project cost, Zakheim said. "The military is no longer perceived as some kind of occupational force that threatens to be there forever," he said. "Instead, it is seen as helping to get local communities off the ground."
Zakheim said this wins the support of the local populations, encouraging them to provide valuable intelligence that support coalition efforts. "It provides intelligence to us, because the Iraqis who recognize what we are trying to do get very short-tempered with those who are trying to disrupt what we are trying to do," he said.
The budget also includes $200 million to provide U.S. equipment to the Afghan National Army. The goal of this program, Zakheim said, is to strengthen the central Afghan government, which soon will face elections, "and weaken warlords who have been a disruptive element in Afghanistan's history for centuries."
Zakheim said the Defense Department plans to pay for the costs of troop and equipment rotations in and out of Southwest Asia and ongoing reconstruction progress in the region through the fiscal 2004 supplemental appropriation that was passed in November. He said the department does not anticipate an additional appropriation until early during the 2005 calendar year.