Leader Blues

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Spending more on military for readiness

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

If Congress approves President Bush’s proposed $515 billion 2009 Pentagon budget, even adjusted for inflation, it will be the largest defense budget since the Second World War.

That doesn’t include the $600 billion supplemental war-spending appropriation already approved for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and for counterterrorism.

“We’ve had several issues that we haven’t had in the past,” said Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock. “We’re increasing the size of the military, particularly the Army and the Marines. We have immediate and long-term personnel costs. We have the whole issue of replacement or repair of equipment and other issues, like increased fuel costs.”

Snyder said other costs pushing up the defense budget include the cost of military health care for members of the military, dependants, retirees and those disabled.

“There are a lot of issues like that,” he said. “We haven’t had the budget very long.” Snyder said PresidentBush may have intentionally downplayed some costs, leaving it for the future president and Congress to increase costs.

“It appears that in real numbers, his budget drops in the next few years.”

He said the possibility of more C-130Js in the U.S. fleet seemed to be the only impact on Little Rock Air Force Base, where virtually all C-130 crews, including C-130J crews, are trained.

New C-130J military transport planes to replace the aging Viet-nam-era fleet of air lifters is one example of such costs, according to Snyder, chairman of the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee.

“The (C-130E)—a lot need to be retired and replaced by modernized H and J models.”

He said desert fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq was “really good for wearing out planes.”

“The J model is getting very high marks for its performance so far in the war environment,” Snyder said. “The Air Force likes the J model. On the other hand, it’s expensive.”

Currently, the Air Force wants another $576 million to buy eight more C-130Js, which is $72 million per plane.
“We are going to buy enough C-130s to reduce the price by $10 million a copy,” according to Cong. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

“When we buy things in larger numbers, we get better costs,” Snyder said.

He said that both domestic and foreign sales could help reduce the cost.

Snyder said Congress had not yet thoroughly studied the president’s proposal, but it seemed to include no new weapons systems.