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Defense Secretary Gates outlines new defense priorities

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined Monday the most sweeping changes in defense spending priorities in decades, proposing the elimination of a long list of big-ticket programs as he shifts the Pentagon's emphasis from conventional to irregular warfare.

The cuts span the various military branches and include many of their best-known weapons programs. They include the bulk of the Army's Future Combat System, the Air Force F-22 fighter, the next generation of Navy destroyers and the C-17 cargo plane. A new fleet of presidential helicopters also would be dropped.

Gates said he wants to put more money into intelligence gathering and surveillance as well as personnel growth in the military services, which he said are at risk of "hollowing" because of attrition. He also would pump money into medical and psychological treatment.

The steps reflect a widely held view among military leaders that the Pentagon must devote more of its resources to small, irregular fights as opposed to large-scale wars against foes of comparable military strength.

All of the changes would require the approval of Congress, which frequently overrides the military's efforts to alter spending programs.

The overall size of the defense budget for fiscal year 2010, $534 billion, had been announced earlier and represents a $20 billion increase over 2009. But Gates had not outlined his spending priorities.

Under Gates' plan, 50 percent of the budget would be used to counter conventional threats, with 10 percent going to irregular warfare and 40 percent to weapons that are useful to both.

Gates said he would expand spending on equipment that targets insurgents, such as $2 billion more on surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. That would include funding for 50 new Predator drones such as those that have rained missiles on militants hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Gates said the Pentagon would not continue the F-22 program — built for the Cold War — beyond 187 planes already planned. Instead, he proposed speeding up production of the F-35, the next-generation stealth fighter jet. That program could cost $1 trillion to manufacture and maintain 2,443 planes.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

fast facts

The Gates plan

Winners

Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program would be accelerated as the F-22 production line ends.

Boeing and Northrop would have the chance to bid on the long-delayed $35 billion Air Force refueling plane contract.

The Army still needs the tanks and armored vehicles General Dynamics makes for the service's Future Combat Systems program.

Losers

Boeing would not make any more C-17 cargo planes and its missile defense plans would be pared back.

Lockheed Martin would stop at 187 F-22 fighter jets priced at $140 million each.

Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics would not make more than three of the new DDG-1000 destroyers for the Navy.

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Gates outlines new defense priorities 04/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 12:06am]

    

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