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White House trades new weapons to support troops

March 12, 2007
The White House plans to shift $3.2 billion in defense spending -- partly from new weapons like the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a trade publication reported on Monday.
In a letter to Congress detailing revised plans for its fiscal 2007 emergency wartime spending request, the White House said it would reduce spending on three aircraft programs by $923 million, freeing up money for armor kits and transport vehicles needed by U.S. troops.
The letter was obtained and released by on Monday.
"Items ... that have been used as offsets have been deemed less timely or lower priorities than those in the current request," said the letter from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
It said it would remove $388 million for five Lockheed C-130J transport planes; $146 million for one CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft built by Boeing Co. and Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc.; and $389 million for Lockheed F-35s.
Instead, it would spend an additional $1.5 billion on armor kits and transport vehicles, including $500 million for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, the newest generation of tactical vehicles designed to protect troops against mines and roadside bombs.
General Dynamics Corp. has already won a contract for some of the new vehicles, but Britain's BAE Systems Plc and Armor Holdings are also in line to get orders for the new vehicles, said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.
Thompson said the proposed changes confirmed defense industry fears that money was beginning to flow out of weapons programs and into personnel and other near term needs.
He said it also marked a reversal of the Pentagon's decision last fall to include all the costs of the global war on terror in its supplemental funding request.
"What these changes show is the tug back and forth between near-term needs and long-term moderation, and as usual, near-term needs are winning out," Thompson said.
(c) Reuters 2006
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