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"FUTURE COMBAT" GETS FUNDS

If there was one part of the Pentagon budget that looked for sure like fat, waiting to be cut, it was the Army's $127 billion Future Combat Systems program, or FCS.nlos_concept_demonstrator.jpgIn December, the Pentagon recommended cutting $1.5 billion a year from the hulking modernization effort. Congress called the program -- which revamps almost every element of soldiers' lives, from the guns they carry, to the officers they salute, to the armored vehicles they drive -- beyond unrealistic. Outside observers saw in FCS a disaster waiting to happen.Nevetheless, FCS hasn't just escaped the axe in this year's Pentagon budget -- it's grown, from $2.8 to $3.6 billion, Defense Daily notes. The Defense Department has requested $231.6 million for the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, a set of guided artillery shells and loitering mini-missiles being developed as part of FCS. The Pentagon wants to put another $107.6 million into the Non-Line of Sight Cannon, a 20-ton, 155mm, tracked cannon that can blast targets up to 30 kilometers away.The Army is also adding $35 billion over 7 years to restructure its forces into smaler, more mobile units -- a key component of the FCS effort, which sees soldiers fighting in smaller, more mobile groups. And the Stryker light armored vehicles, a FCS precursor, is slated for $905.1 million this year to pay 240 more of the personnel carriers. So much for trimming the fat.THERE'S MORE: The Defense Department may have promised billions in budget rollbacks last month. But now, Defense News notes, "even the Pentagon admits it: the 2006 budget calls for 'a healthy increase,' not a deep cut in defense spending.

At $439.3 billion, the 2006 spending plan would give the military $18.7 billion more than it has for 2005. The Defense Department would get a 4.8 percent increase while other federal agencies are being held to less than 2.2 percent...And there will be more to come perhaps $100 billion more in the form of emergency supplemental appropriations to pay war costs.The 2006 budget Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is sending to Congress Feb. 7 "continues our strong growth," a senior Pentagon official said. It pushes defense spending up 41 percent since President George W. Bush took office.
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