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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 2-305210 Congress/Defense/Iraq (L-O)
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=7/08/03

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=CONGRESS / DEFENSE / IRAQ (L-O)

NUMBER=2-305210

BYLINE=DAN ROBINSON

DATELINE=CAPITOL HILL

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

/// EDS: UPDATE INTRO AS NEEDED AFTER HOUSE PASSAGE, EXPECTED AFTER 6:30 P-M ///

INTRO: The House of Representatives is expected to approve 368-billion dollars in spending for defense -- including more money for un-manned aircraft for use in the war on terror. The legislation has wide bipartisan support, but Democrats generally are continuing to criticize the Bush administration on the defense budget, and on military planning in Iraq. V-O-A's Dan Robinson has a report:

TEXT: The bill contains three-billion dollars less than President Bush's request for the 2004 fiscal year beginning in October. But overall, it is an increase of four-billion dollars over last year.

It includes more money for U-S special operations forces, used with great effect in the war against al-Qaida and Taleban government forces in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

Regular U-S forces receive money for new "Abrams" tanks, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Two-hundred-million dollars above last year's levels is provided for un-manned aerial vehicles. This includes funding for 16 "Predator" aircraft, used in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as against specific al-Qaida terrorist targets, and four larger "Global Hawk" aircraft.

The legislation also continues funding for Ballistic Missile Defense, a controversial multi-year program whose supporters say is needed to protect the United States against possible attack by so-called "rogue states" such as North Korea.

Opponents of missile defense say it will be ineffective against terrorists using more conventional means to attack Americans.

/// OPT /// One such critic is (Democratic) Congressman Dennis Kucinich:

/// KUCINICH ACT ///

National missile defense would offer no protection against such an attack. And because we waste so much money on this system, we leave our homeland security system under-funded and unable to protect from real threats.

/// END ACT /// /// END OPT ///

The 368-billion dollar appropriations bill is in addition to 62-billion dollars the Pentagon received as part of an emergency spending package Congress approved this past April to pay for initial costs of the war in Iraq.

House and Senate conferees will meet in coming weeks to iron out differences between respective defense funding measures.

Preparations, meanwhile, are underway for hearings on the question of intelligence information used by the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq.

The House Intelligence Committee is expected to hold public hearings, after closed sessions dealing with classified information. Similar hearings are expected on the Senate side.

Lawmakers will also hear this week from the Bush administration about the military situation in Iraq, amid rising congressional concern about continuing attacks on U-S soldiers in Iraq.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, spoke Tuesday on the House floor:

/// SANCHEZ ACT ///

Our troops are over-stretched, morale is low, and the situation within Iraq is getting worse by the day. This administration must, it must re-address the situation and give our troops peacekeeping training that they need. In addition, efforts to reach out to the international community for assistance must be enhanced.

/// END ACT ///

The former head of the U-S Central Command, General Tommy Franks, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Wednesday, with General Franks appearing at a similar House hearing on Thursday. (signed)

NEB/DAR/FC/RH



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