DOD requests $380 billion budget

GlobalSecurity.org

President Bush is requesting $379.9 billion in the fiscal 2004 budget for the Defense Department, including more than $24 billion focused on the DOD's information technology-laden transformation systems and initiatives.

The fiscal 2004 request is more than $15 billion greater than the current year's funding, and according to a senior DOD budget official, it attempts to balance three competing demands:

* Winning the global war on terrorism by meeting near-term demands.

* Sustaining the defense workforce.

* Transformation.

"The basic point of this year's budget is that we have accepted near-term risk in order to transform in the longer term," the senior DOD official said.

The focal point of transformation is improving DOD's command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities. The fiscal 2004 request includes more than $3.9 billion to fund some key programs in that area.

"This is the heart of transformation," the senior DOD official said. "The communications are the key."

Unmanned vehicles—including the Air Force's Predator and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and an unmanned underwater vehicle—a maritime patrol vehicle and the Army's Shadow tactical UAV, all received funding in the 2004 request, which totals more than $1.4 billion for all of the vehicles, compared to about $1 billion in fiscal 2003.

Patrick Garrett, an associate analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, which monitors space and military programs, said the increase in funding for unmanned vehicles is recognition of their success and that they have "played an important role in the last two years." He added that the trend should continue as DOD's workforce decreases but the number of missions it is involved in increases.

Other C4ISR programs in the request include:

* Transformational laser satellite communications, which should help ease the DOD's bandwidth problems, at $452 million.

* The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), which uses software-centric radios that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies, at $478 million;

*Cryptologic modernization, to improve protection of DOD networks, at $416 million.

"Real-time situational awareness—instead of delayed—is a crucial element [to DOD's transformation]", Garrett said, and C4ISR enables the various weapons systems operators and military commanders to communicate "and know what's going on at a moment's notice."

The fiscal 2004 request also includes $1.7 billion for the centerpiece of the Army's transformation—Future Combat Systems (FCS)—which will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to give soldiers capabilities for command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and non-line-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

DOD's budget for research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) totals $61.8 billion, a nearly $5 billion increase over 2003 funding.

DOD has had a goal of reaching the industry's standard 3 percent spending on science and technology, but the fiscal 2004 request falls short. The $10.2 billion science and technology request represents about 2.7 percent of the total DOD budget, although those numbers could increase based on the budget ultimately approved by Congress.

The senior DOD official said the department is on pace to reach the 3 percent goal by the end of the decade. He added that the science and technology funding represents the "research side of the R&D continuum. . .and now we're emphasizing development."

"This is an example of [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld's focus on getting [technologies] into the field sooner rather than later," Garrett said, adding that instead of spending so much time researching and testing, DOD is now taking a "break a little, fix a little approach" on many systems.

"There's a long lead time for technologies to go from the drawing board to the real world," Garrett said. "Rumsfeld has been frustrated with that that," which is why R&D has been given a lesser role.

The senior DOD official repeatedly said that the incremental cost of the war on terrorism has forced DOD to dip into fiscal 2003 fourth-quarter funds, and he expects that trend will continue into the 2004 budget cycle.

"Right now, we're robbing the fourth quarter and I believe that we will be robbing the third quarter," he said. "Some time this spring, our servicemen will not have the money to conduct certain training operations."

DOD will have to go back to Congress later this year for additional funding, and "that has nothing to do with Iraq," the senior DOD official said. He added that the department is working with the Office of Management and Budget on supplemental funding for fiscal 2004, but specific dollar amounts and a timetable have not yet been set.

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