US Announces Defence Budget Slash

Washington, Jan 27 (IANS): US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has unveiled the Pentagon's budget request for the 2013 fiscal year, which includes plans to significantly cut defence spending and army personnel.

The base budget request is set at $525 billion for the year starting October with an additional $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations -- mostly in Afghanistan. This is down from $531 billion and $115 billion respectively in this fiscal year.

The new budget plan was guided by the 2011 Budget Control Act's requirement to reduce defence spending by approximately $487 billion over the next decade, Penetta said. The base budget will be slashed by $259 billion over the next five years, Xinhua quoted him as saying.

The budget looks to re-shape the military to be more agile, quick and flexible that incorporates the lessons learned in 10 years of war, Panetta said.

The defence chief also announced plans to cut military personnel, a move he said reflected the fact that the US military commitment in Iraq is complete and a security transition in Afghanistan is underway. The number of active army soldiers will be cut from 570,000 in 2010 to 490,000 by 2017, and the Marines will be cut from 202,000 to 182,000.

The army plans to remove at least eight Brigade Combat Teams from its existing structure, the Pentagon said in a document outlining the budget preview. Even with these reductions, the army and marine corps will be larger than they were in 2001.

"While the US does not anticipate engaging in prolonged, large-scale stability operations -- requiring a large rotation force -- in the near- to mid-term, we cannot rule out the possibility," the document said.

"If such a campaign were to occur, we would respond by mobilizing the Reserve Component and, over time, regenerating Active Component end strength."

The budget maintains the current US focus in the Central Command region and increases American commitment to the Pacific Command area of operations. The request looks to maintain the Navy 's current 11 aircraft carriers and 10 carrier air wings, Panetta said.

It will also maintain the current Marine and Army posture in the Asia-Pacific region, and will base littoral combat ships in Singapore and Bahrain.

The budget will eliminate two forward-based Army heavy brigades in Europe. Instead, brigades will rotate in and out of the area. The United States and European allies also will look to share costs for new capabilities such as the alliance ground surveillance program.

The Navy will retire seven older cruisers and two amphibious ships early, and the Air Force will eliminate six tactical air squadrons.

The F-35 joint strike fighter is key to maintaining domain superiority, and the military remains committed to the program, Panetta said. "But in this budget, we have slowed procurement to complete more testing and allow for developmental changes before buying in significant quantities," he added.


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