NBC NIGHTLY NEWS (6:30 PM ET)
GEORGE W. BUSH VISITS PENTAGON WITH DESIGNS TO IMPROVE MILITARYJanuary 10, 2001, Wednesday
ANCHORS: TOM BROKAW
REPORTERS: JIM MIKLASZEWSKI
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
As for the president-elect, he was sizing up his new duties today in one of the most critical posts in the nation's capital, that's of course the Pentagon. If George W. Bush has his way, big changes are coming in the American military system. Here's NBC's Jim Miklaszewski.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting:
Flanked by his entire national security team, the commander in chief-elect arrives at the Pentagon today, his first close-up look at the military he's about to inherit and pledges to change.
Unidentified Man: Mr. President-elect, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Deep inside "The Tank," a secure soundproof room where war plans are made, President-elect Bush gets a top-secret brief on world hot spots and potential threats. But his first big military battle may come on Capitol Hill. For Bush, the controversial National Missile Defense is a top priority. In fact, he wants to build a much larger defense than the $ 60 billion system now planned. Critics predict a tough fight in Congress.
Mr. JOHN PIKE (Globalsecurity.org): It's going to cost a lot of money. It's going to generate a lot of controversy.
MIKLASZEWSKI: But the biggest challenge to Bush will be to rebuild a military in decline. At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, mechanics struggle to keep planes in the air.
Technical Sergeant BRIAN PLAUCHE (US Air Force): Can't fly the airplanes cause we're waiting on parts.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The Air Force alone says it needs an additional $ 30 billion a year to replace or repair its aging fleet of planes. Bush, however, plans to spend only $ 5 billion a year more on the entire military.
Mr. ANDREW KREPINEVICH (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments): They've got essentially a ten-pound defense program trying to be squeezed into a five-pound budget bag.
MIKLASZEWSKI: To make that fit, Bush wants to change the way the Pentagon thinks and the military fights, making the entire force lighter but more lethal.
That means costly weapons systems, like a whole new generation of fighter planes at $ 360 billion could get shot down. Nevertheless, after eight years of rocky relations with the Clinton White House, the military appears eager to salute their new commander in chief, and the seriousness of the job hit home today. For the first time, Bush was briefed on the secret codes to launch nuclear weapons. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
Copyright 2001 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.
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