US to spend $500 mn more to counter terrorism

April 7th, 2009 - 11:32 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 7 (IANS) The United States proposes to more than double its fleet of drones used extensively in operations against terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as it increases funding for counter-terrorism operations by $500 million.

“To boost global partnership capacity efforts, we will increase funding by $500 million,” Defence Secretary Robert Gates said announcing a 2010 Pentagon budget Monday. “These initiatives include training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counter terrorism and stability operations.”

Reflecting major changes in the “scope and significance” of Defence Department priorities, the proposed budget cuts several traditional big-ticket items while investing in programmes designed to bolster the military’s ability to wage an ongoing conflict against terrorists and other extremist elements in multiple regions at the same time.

Gates requested 50 Predator and Reaper-class unmanned aerial vehicles by fiscal year 2011, translating to a 62 percent increase in capability over the current level and 127 percent from a year ago.

The Predator has been used extensively by the military in operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

“This is a reform budget, reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gates said. “There’s no question that a lot of these decisions will be controversial,” he said calling on Congress to “rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole”.

Three key priorities are reflected in the changes, Gates said. The priorities are a stronger institutional commitment to the military’s all-volunteer force, a decision to “rebalance” defence programmes to better fight current and future conflicts, and “fundamental overhauls” of the military’s procurement, acquisition and contracting process.

Among other things, Gates called for production of the Air Force’s most expensive fighter, the F-22 Raptor, to be phased out by fiscal year 2011.

He also called for terminating a proposed fleet of 23 presidential helicopters estimated to cost more than $13 billion. The proposed fleet, he noted, was originally projected to cost $6.5 billion. It “has fallen six years behind schedule and runs the risk of not delivering the requested capability,” he said.

At the same time, he said he did not want to pursue a development programme for a new Air Force bomber “until we have a better understanding of the need, the requirement and the technology.”

The proposed overall fiscal year 2010 Defence Department budget is almost $534 billion, or nearly $664 billion when including the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current Pentagon budget totals slightly over $513 billion, or almost $655 billion including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

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