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thedrifter
12-11-08, 09:12 AM
Mullen says defense overspending must stop
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Military Writer
Thu Dec 11, 4:07 am ET

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. military officer says the Pentagon cannot afford continued cost overruns and is hinting that some weapons systems may be cut or scaled back under President-elect Barack Obama.

"I'm obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got in so many ... of our programs," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

"We are going to have to get a grip on that or we will not be able to buy them," Mullen said Wednesday, "or we won't be able to buy them in the quantity we need."

Obama has said in a time of recession and rising federal debt he will go over the federal budget line by line. The Pentagon has the largest share of federal spending not tied to mandatory programs, and is fighting two expensive wars.

Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates plan "to take a very, very intense, focused, comprehensive view at what we're buying. And from that perspective, I think that's very healthy," Mullen told reporters at the Pentagon.

Wall Street analysts have been predicting a drop in defense spending, although the current Bush administration is asking for more money.

Reports have circulated in recent months that the Bush administration intended to add $360 billion into the military's core budget between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2015.

The additional funding is expected to cover costs for an extra 92,000 soldiers and Marines, according to Wall Street analysts.

The Pentagon is completing an updated six-year projected spending plan and 2010 budget proposal before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

Pentagon acquisition chief John Young said last month the Defense Department's budget plan for 2010 to 2015 would exceed the Bush administration's previous spending projections between 2009 and 2013.

Young did not provide exact figures of the budget increase, calling the plan "a budget template" that most likely would be altered by the next administration.

The Obama administration will have about 30 days to adjust the 2010 budget and the six-year defense spending plan before they go to Congress in February.

Among the targets for budget-cutting will probably be the F-22 fighter jet.

Last month, the Pentagon decided to scrap Congress' plan to initially spend $140 million for 20 more aircraft, and instead opted to spend $50 million in "bridge funding" for only four of the stealth fighters. The move to buy four with an option for more would offer the next administration time to make a decision on whether to buy more aircraft, the Pentagon has argued.

Mullen put the review in the context of the global financial slide.

"I think it's important for all of us in the Defense Department to squeeze our budgets, to draw in where we can, and for leaders to commit to that," he said.

Separately, Mullen said he likes what he sees so far in Pakistan's response to last month's terror attacks in next-door India, including the arrests of key militants, but said time will tell if Pakistan's crackdown is for real.

"We measure by deeds," Mullen said.

Mullen visited Pakistan and India last week, tag-teaming the pressure on Pakistan's shaky civilian government with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Describing his meetings to reporters, Mullen said he was impressed by the stated commitment of Pakistani leaders.

"I sense a real appreciation for both the seriousness of the attacks and the growing threats of terrorism inside their own borders," Mullen said.

He praised raids on militant facilities that followed his visit, and gave Pakistan's influential military chief an unusually strong endorsement.

The media-shy Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is sometimes described as Pakistan's shadow ruler. Mullen noted the two have met frequently in the past several months, although he did not mention the context for some of their discussions — the rise in U.S.-Pakistan tensions over U.S. terror-hunting raids on Pakistani soil.

"In my interactions with him, we've usually discussed how to move forward. And what he's told me he would do he has done," Mullen said. "This is another example of that."

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Ellie