Pentagon details priorities for use of emergency funds

The military's priorities for the fiscal 2001 emergency supplemental funds Congress provided in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks include improvements to intelligence systems--including the over-used electronic warfare aircraft--and force protection, Defense Department Comptroller Dov Zakheim said today.

"Our highest immediate priority is for ... situational awareness--intelligence, including human intelligence, remote sensing, the ability to disseminate the intelligence among decision makers and funding to alleviate what are called low-density, high-demand problems" in manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, Zakheim told reporters.

Beyond the short-term efforts to improve intelligence capabilities, Zakheim said the administration would seek to speed development of the Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. Administration officials also will push full funding to convert two Trident ballistic missile submarines into cruise missile platforms, which could be ready for the next crisis, he said.

The funding for "enhanced force protection" would include defenses against chemical and biological weapons and more conventional attacks, Zakheim said.

"We don't want any more Khobar Towers," he said, referring to the 1996 terrorist bombing of a U.S. housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 individuals. "We're also going to have to maintain our forces... at a high operational alert for some time to come," he said, which will require realistic estimates of increased fuel and other costs.

Zakheim also emphasized that the nation will have to maintain its focus on increased defense for the long term. That would mean continuing with the national missile defense program. Although it "does not seem to be at the center of what we're doing now, if we do not do anything about missile defense, it could well be at the center of what we have to do in the future. We'll be creating a vacuum that some future terrorist can exploit," he said.

Zakheim added that the Pentagon was working to determine how much additional money it will request for the FY02 Defense appropriations bill, which still is working its way through Congress. The armed services would need extra money just to continue the efforts funded in the emergency supplemental as well as for future needs, he said.

Despite the jump in defense funding, Zakheim said the Pentagon would continue its efforts to become more efficient, improve its financial management and business practices, and go ahead with another requested round of base closings. "There's no reason not to have one. We still have more facilities than we have people," he said.

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