Army transformation shows force

Gen. Eric Shinseki is garnering congressional support for the service's transformation and may even be influencing the president. But the Army chief of staff still may have trouble getting more funding, experts say.

Shinseki announced in 1998 that the Army will transform itself into a more lethal, deployable and flexible force. From 2002 to 2007, the service will budget $8.5 billion to science and technology, much of it to develop the Future Combat System, a family of information technology-laden vehicles capable of conducting missions that include command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and indirect fire, and personnel transport.

The service has formed a partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop revolutionary technologies, including mobile communications and robotic vehicles and weapon systems.

The Army traditionally has not been as effective as the other services in persuading politicians to fund its needs. But under Shinseki's leadership, that is changing.

In fact, in his first official address to Congress Feb. 27, President Bush seems to have adopted some of the language Shinseki uses to describe the Army's transformation.

When Bush uses phrases like "transform our forces and discard our Cold War relics," he's echoing Shinseki's vision, according to attendees at this week's Association of United States Army's 2001 Winter Symposium and Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"It sounds like President Bush is taking a page out of [Shinseki's] play book," said Kraig Siracuse, a Senate Appropriations Committee staff member, who pointed out that in last year's budget, the committee added $500 million to the Army budget for the transformation effort.

"That's a pot of money. We are very supportive of transformation," Siracuse said.

Bush proposed a defense budget of $310.5 billion for fiscal 2002, a 4 percent increase over the $296.3 billion 2001 budget.

Still, Siracuse said that getting more than Bush's proposed 4 percent increase from a Republican Congress may be more difficult than many in the military and the defense industry expect.

"It's going to be more difficult for a Republican Congress to add more money to a Republican president's budget. I think there will be some concern that if Congress adds too much money, it will give the Democrats an issue saying that the president talks tough on defense but had to rely on Congress to [boost] the budget," Siracuse said.

And even if Bush does add money to the defense budget by greater amounts after 2002, some in industry say they doubt the money will be spent on information technologies or weapon systems.

"I think there may be a little bit added, but it will be for personnel, not technology," one industry source said.

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