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09 January 2003

Committee Chair Will Urge More Funds for Military Modernization

(Congressional Report, January 9: House Armed Services Reorganized)
(780)

The new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee warned that "we
live in a very dangerous world" and said he will seek to boost funds
for military modernization to $90,000 million in the 108th session of
Congress, an increase of $19,000 million over the previous year.

U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (Republican, California), who was
elected to chair the committee on January 8, told reporters that "this
century is going to be a very dangerous century" which will require
broad military capabilities. He also said he would like the U.S.
military to be larger than it is now so that it can meet multiple
challenges robustly and with overwhelming force, if need be.

As the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism and faces
the prospect of conflicts elsewhere, Hunter said he will focus on four
main areas. Speaking at his first press conference on January 9, he
said the committee will try to give President Bush "the resources he
needs to win the nation's wars," renew commitments to modernization,
stress efficiencies in procurement and operations, and support
military personnel and families on quality of life and equipment
issues. He said he expects to emphasize issues such as modernizing
equipment, leveraging technology to improve smart munitions, and the
need to narrow the pay gap between the military and civilian sectors.

While spending on modernizing aging military equipment grew to $71
billion [$70,000 million] last year, Hunter said, "I want to see it go
to $90 billion [$90,000 million]." Modernization efforts "still have a
long way to go," he said because the military needs the tools "to
carry out extended military operations." He also said it is important
to have the ability "to quickly field technology" so that the best
available systems cycle rapidly to the users.

Asked about missile defense priorities, the chairman said he would
like to see many more tests as part of the research and development
program. He also said test failures should not be over dramatized
since failures are a natural part of developing any difficult
technical system. Hunter said he wants his committee to have a close
working relationship with the Missile Defense Agency, to promote an
environment "for rigorous testing," and to exercise "vigorous
oversight" of the program.

Asked about the difficulties faced by United Nations weapons
inspectors as they work their way around Iraq, Hunter said the
probability of a cadre of inspectors stumbling upon illegal weapons in
Iraq is "low." The Iraqis have shown themselves, already, to be
"extremely skilled at hiding this stuff," he added.

On U.S. spending to secure weapons dismantlement in the former Soviet
Union, Hunter said he would like to see more robust oversight of
existing programs. He also recommended putting more program managers
on site, rather than bringing them in for periodic inspections.

Hunter, who has been serving on the Armed Services Committee since
1981 and is a former chairman of the Subcommittees on Military
Research and Development and on Military Procurement, also announced a
reorganization of the Committee's subcommittee structure.

There will now be a subcommittee to focus on what he described as
"emerging threats." Representative Jim Saxton (Republican, New Jersey)
will chair the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and
Capabilities. This will include oversight for Special Operations
Forces and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Representative Roscoe Bartlett (Republican, Florida) will chair the
Subcommittee on Projection of Forces with responsibility for
overseeing ships, bombers and heavy airlift.

The Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which includes ballistic missile
defenses and space programs, will be chaired by Representative Terry
Everett (Republican, Alabama).

Representative Curt Weldon (Republican, Pennsylvania) will chair the
Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

Military construction and training issues have been brought together
under the new Subcommittee on Readiness which Representative Joel
Hefley (Republican, Colorado) will chair.

Military personnel issues will be encapsulated under Representative
John McHugh's chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Total Force.

Hunter said this new structure will allow his committee to examine
U.S. defense requirements "not only in terms of individual weapons
systems or the traditional role of a particular military service," but
also from the perspective of the ability to project and integrate U.S.
forces throughout the world in response to evolving threats.

"Our nation must manage significant national security challenges over
the next several years," Hunter said, "We are already facing a
potential conflict with Iraq, new challenges on the Korean Peninsula,
and key decisions in the president's plans to transform the military."

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)