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Hunter seeks to add millions to next year's defense budget

November 09, 2001|By SAM SCOTT, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The Imperial Valley's congressman announced Wednesday that he is seeking to add more than $32 billion to next year's $340 billion defense budget.

Rep. Duncan Hunter said the military needs more money for ammunition, spare parts, intelligence and modernization as well as to continue the conflict in Afghanistan. He said the Navy is rapidly depleting its precision weapon supply and that only 74 percent of the military's jets are capable of performing missions.

"You can't conduct a Ronald Reagan foreign policy with a Jimmy Carter defense budget," said Hunter, R-Alpine.

Both houses of Congress have passed versions of the defense bill — each authorizing about $340 billion in spending — and negotiators including Hunter are meeting in conference to produce a compromise.

Hunter is using the meeting to lobby for an almost 10 percent increase. Lobbying for such a significant increase during the conference stage — in which only a few legislators have input — is unusual, said Christopher Hellman, an analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan think tank.


"Under normal circumstances it would be unheard of," Hellman said.

Hunter — a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the subcommittee on Military Research and Development — has long been in favor of maintaining a large, robust military.

The war in Afghanistan has furthered his desire to see increased spending, said Mike Harrison, Hunter's spokesman. Hellman said he thought the existing $340 billion 2002 defense authorization, nearly 11 percent larger than the 2001 amount, would suffice even with the war.

"We've got a Ronald Reagan policy on a Ronald Reagan budget," Hellman said, responding to Hunter's remark. "This is not a Cold War foe and it's certainly not a Cold War."

Hunter acknowledged he has an uphill battle. President Bush has promised to veto bills that stretch government spending beyond a level agreed to last month, and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee opposes Hunter's efforts, Hunter said. But he said he would continue to lobby for spending.

"We have got to increase defense spending if we really mean to carry out this war on terrorism," Hunter said.

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