- The Washington Times
Monday, February 13, 2012

The Pentagon is not cutting just manpower to reach deficit-reduction targets: Its 2013 budget released Monday shows the military will spend less on new weapons after two grueling wars.

The procurement line in the $525 billion spending plan calls for $108 billion next year to buy big and small weapon systems such as guns, ships and jet fighters, down nearly 30 percent from 2011.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced budget details last month, with a focus on how the Army and Marine Corps will shed 90,000 troops to save money over the next decade.

The detailed budget shows the services will have less buying power too, as the Air Force copes with an aging fleet of tactical combat aircraft whose average age of 22 years puts them near retirement.

The Navy has $13.5 billion to buy new ships, down from $15 billion two years ago. Analysts doubt the 285-ship Navy can reach its goal of 313 ships in the next five years.

Army procurement drops to $21 billion, from $34 billion in 2011 and $24 billion last year.

The squeeze is part of the Pentagon’s blueprint to slash $487 billion in projected spending over the next 10 years to comply with the Budget Control Act. The $525 billion base budget is about $5 billion lower than this year’s, setting the stage for a defense downturn not seen since the post-Soviet 1990s.

It is the first Pentagon budget based on President Obama’s new war strategy, which downplays preparing the active force for one or more large, protracted land wars.

The new focus shifts from Europe to the emerging power China and the Western Pacific. The Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf region where Iran remains an adversary, remains a high priority.

“The department’s strategy developed in this budget creates a smaller, lighter, more agile, flexible joint force to conduct a full range of military activities that are necessary to defend U.S. national interests,” the Pentagon said Monday.

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