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Mullen Warns Against Cutting US Aid to Egypt

VOA News February 16, 2011

The top U.S. military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, has warned against cutting U.S. military aid to countries like Egypt, saying it would be "foolhardy" (unwise) to make "hasty judgments."

Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that changes in U.S. aid to militaries overseas should be considered only with "an abundance of caution." He warned that changes should not be looked at in what he described as the "flush of public passion" and the urgency to save money.

He said the $1.3 billion the U.S. provides Egypt's military each year has been of "incalculable value," helping the force become capable and professional.

Some U.S. lawmakers had called for cutting U.S. aid to Egypt before ousted President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, if a transition did not happen soon.

Mullen testified Wednesday along with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the Defense Department's budget request for fiscal year 2012.

Gates said the Pentagon is asking for $553 billion for the budget year that begins in October, plus about $118 billion for overseas operations.

One of the more controversial parts of the 2012 budget request is a plan to reduce the size of the Army and Marine Corps starting in 2015. Gates said the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the eventual reduction of troops in Afghanistan will make it possible to do so with "minimal risk." He said if those assumptions prove incorrect, there is time to adjust the change.

Gates also addressed the need for Congress to pass a new defense budget for the current year, saying the Defense Department will face a "crisis" if Congress does not pass one, or if it passes one with a significant funding cut. The government is currently running on a temporary spending measure that expires in early March.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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