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Pentagon Spending Leaves Homefront Unguarded: Report

by Abid Aslam

Nuclear, Chemical Plants Still Vulnerable

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Defense Department should cut billions of dollars from major weapons programs and plough the money into domestic security initiatives, says a new report with far-reaching implications not only for the federal budget but also for dozens of arms makers and other private defense contractors.

Washington-based think tanks the Center for Defense Information and the Foreign Policy in Focus project recommend major investments to protect public transit and lay groundwork for health systems to cope with potential biological or chemical attacks on U.S. soil.

'Despite promises of a comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism, the Bush administration has concentrated its resources overwhelmingly on its military forces, at the expense of other security tools,' says the report, released May 10.

'The Bush military budget is being spent on a force structure that does not match today's security challenges, because it is designed for Cold War-style large-scale conventional challenges that we no longer face.'

The report recommends major cuts for many of the Defense Department's highest-profile programs. These included the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems modernization program, the DD(X) naval destroyer, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, and the F/A-22 Raptor jet fighter.

If implemented, the report's recommendations would have a major impact on business for leading U.S. defense contractors including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp., and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Increased spending on domestic initiatives -- 'homeland security,' in the official parlance -- would affect the same firms but also dozens of other large and small companies specializing in intelligence, counter-terrorism, and emergency-response goods and services.

In all, the report recommends cutting $53.1 billion from military expenditures and spending $40.5 billion more on international affairs and homeland security operations. It calls for a four-to-one ratio of spending on military programs to all other security spending, down from the seven-to-one proposed in Bush's 2006 budget.

The report, which was funded by private philanthropies and endorsed by a task force made up of retired military officers and veteran defense analysts, also calls for an additional $10 billion for foreign aid and recommends specific changes in U.S. development policy.

Report co-author Miriam Pemberton of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said she expected the report to resonate with business leaders as well as policy makers.

'Policy makers, experts, and business leaders from across the political spectrum have called for a more balanced approach to terrorism and global security,' Pemberton said in a statement. 'The Unified Security Budget provides the road map and budget specifics on how we make that happen.'

The report says ballooning budget deficits 'have finally begun to make security budget priorities a permissible topic of conversation among lawmakers' nearly four years after debate was stifled by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The recommendations also evoke a recent poll in which members of the U.S. public said that, given the chance, they would significantly change next year's federal budget, reversing key Bush administration proposals.

Provided with details of the major areas of Bush's discretionary budget for fiscal year 2006, which begins Oct. 1, 2005, around two-thirds of those surveyed said they would cut spending on large-scale Cold War-style capabilities and use the money to reduce the U.S. budget deficit, said the poll released in March by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Republicans and Democrats alike would take the budget axe to spending on defense and on Iraq and Afghanistan, channelling the money into domestic priorities including education, job training, veterans, and reducing U.S. reliance on oil, the poll said.

Respondents also would increase spending on the means by which the United States projects 'soft power' overseas. These include foreign aid, UN peacekeeping, and diplomacy.

Defense would sustain the deepest cuts. Of nearly 1,200 U.S. adults surveyed, 65 percent said they would reduce spending by an average of 31 percent or the equivalent of around $134 billion.

Homeland security, however, would receive a robust average boost of $10.5 billion or 38 percent, although only 41 percent of respondents favoured increases.

As respondents had proposed large defense cuts, they were asked what areas they would want to axe. Majorities said they would trim the U.S. capability for large-scale nuclear wars, the number of nuclear weapons, and spending on developing new nuclear weapons.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents also proposed reducing U.S. capabilities to fight large-scale naval and land wars, and said they would cut spending on new types of naval destroyers, submarines, and bombers.

Respondents preserved spending for troops including on salaries, maintaining the overall number of military personnel, and developing new equipment for infantry and Marines.

The report also urged action to plug gaps in protective equipment issued to U.S. troops.

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Albion Monitor May 16, 2005 (

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