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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Proposes $120Bln Hike in Defense Budget

WASHINGTON -- In the biggest U.S. military buildup in two decades, President George W. Bush will press Congress on Monday to raise defense spending by $120 billion over the next five years to $451 billion by 2007, senior U.S. officials said Saturday.

Proposed increases over the current $331 billion Pentagon budget would begin with a jump to $379 billion in the coming 2003 financial year beginning Oct. 1 and steadily rise in the following four years, the officials said.

Next year's defense increase would be part of Bush's proposed $2.1 trillion overall federal budget for 2003.

"The budget for 2003 is much more than a tabulation of numbers. It is a plan to fight a war we did not seek, but a war we are determined to win," Bush will say in his budget proposal.

"America's military must be strengthened ... so it can act still more effectively to find, pursue, and destroy our enemies."

Officials, who asked not to be identified, said they expected lawmakers to approve next year's 12 percent budget increase despite major controversy over Bush's costly plan to build a missile defense system for the United States.

"I think it would be hard to dismiss a very large increase after September," said one of the officials referring to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, which Washington blames on the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden.

Bush has already announced he plans to call for an increase to $379 billion for next year to arm and prepare the U.S. military for war against both "terrorist" groups and nations in the years ahead.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which has toppled that country's ruling hard-line Islamist Taliban movement and battered the Afghan-based al-Qaida, is already costing Washington more than $1 billion a month.

Next year's proposed defense spending increase of 12 percent after allowing for inflation would be the biggest percentage boost in the military budget since then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan began a five-year arms build-up 21 years ago that left the Soviet Union broken.

Bush and members of Congress have agreed that the world's only superpower military must gird with new arms, technologies and strategies to fight groups such as the al-Qaida network.

The New York Times first reported the new five-year budget projection figures Saturday, quoting congressional and defense industry officials.

Much of the 2003 defense budget to be sent to the legislature Monday would cover better troop pay and benefits.

But officials said it would also devote $29 billion to the war on terrorism and $9 billion to unconventional arms ranging from pilotless spy planes carrying missiles to a laser-communications system for troops.