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Rumsfeld makes $379 billion pitch

Senators receptive to proposed defense budget



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Claiming "our adversaries are watching what we do," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented lawmakers Tuesday with the Bush administration's proposal to boost the Defense Department's budget to $379 billion -- the biggest one-year boost since the Reagan years.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld encountered a receptive audience.

"This committee will do all in its power ... to ensure that our forces have the resources, the tools the technology, whatever they need" for the fight against terrorism, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, committee chairman.

Rumsfeld repeated his goals for a well-trained, agile military force.

"Our adversaries are watching what we do," Rumsfeld said. "They're studying how we have been successfully attacked, how we are responding and how we may be vulnerable in the future."

The military's goals under the budget plan are to disrupt and destroy terrorism, eliminate safe havens for terrorists and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the senators.

Levin expressed concerns that the budget's $10 billion contingency fund for unspecified purposes could be used to initiate antiterrorism activities in other countries without congressional authorization.

Rumsfeld gave no details for how that money would be spent. "My understanding is that the funds would be used for the war on terrorism," he said. "The president has announced that al Qaeda is in some 60 countries."

One exception to the largely supportive tone of the meeting came when Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, expressed frustration the United States had failed to capture either al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

"You can't tell me today whether they're alive or dead or where they're at. And if we're going to spend a billion-plus dollars a day, we ought to be able to do that," Bunning said, referring to the overall proposed defense budget. The Afghan war has been costing $2 billion a month.

"Most of [al Qaeda leadership] seems to have escaped and left Afghanistan and are in other countries planning destruction again," Bunning said.

'Making life very difficult for them'

Rumsfeld agreed but said the United States and other countries were placing pressure on terrorists, making arrests, closing bank accounts and taking other measures.

"All of that pressure is making life very difficult for them," he said.

Rumsfeld also reiterated that pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda resistance remain in Afghanistan.

Intelligence sources have told CNN they have monitored recent radio transmissions indicating Omar was still in Afghanistan.



 
 
 
 


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