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Archive for Sunday, February 11, 2001

Military issues on Bush agenda for Week 4 in office

February 11, 2001

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— President Bush used his weekly radio address Saturday to reaffirm his commitment to the military, which was a staple of his campaign but was questioned by some Republican lawmakers last week after he refused to seek immediate Pentagon spending increases.

Bush plans a trio of day trips to East Coast bases for his "national security week."

"Next week's trips signal the priority I place on our military," Bush said. "I want every man and woman in the armed forces to know that I respect your service and appreciate your sacrifice."

Bush made no reference to the budget controversy, which followed his decision to delay any requests for additional Pentagon funds until he has completed "a top-to-bottom review of what's happening in today's military."

On Monday, Bush is to fly to Savannah, Ga., to review the troops at Fort Stewart.

On Tuesday, Bush is scheduled to travel to Norfolk Naval Air Station, where he will participate in a video teleconferencing battle exercise.

"America has some big choices to make as we prepare for the challenges and dangers of modern warfare," he said. "Battles will no longer be won by size alone-stealth and speed will matter more."

On Wednesday, he is to fly to Charleston, W.Va., where he will hold a round-table discussion with reservists and National Guard members and participate in a disaster relief simulation at the state's emergency operations center. On Thursday, he is scheduled to visit the State Department. On Friday, Bush is to take a day trip to Mexico, then visit his ranch in Texas.

Bush said in the address that he will offer "meaningful increases in funding to improve the lives of our men and woman in uniform."

His spokesman, Ari Fleischer, put the requested pay raise at $1.4 billion, and said Bush also will propose $1 billion in incentives aimed at keeping highly skilled people in their military jobs. The requests are for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

During his campaign last year, Bush accused President Clinton of shortchanging the military and said he would make significant improvements.

As a candidate, Bush said he would raise military pay by $1 billion a year for five years, and said the typical soldier would earn about $750 more in the first year from his plan.

Getting military pay raises and improving health and other benefits has been a focus of recent budgets as the military seeks to stem the tide of service members who have been leaving for civilian jobs.

The Pentagon said in September that 5,100 troops, or 0.4 percent of the nation's military, were receiving food stamps. That's an improvement from 1991, when about 19,400 troops were reported to be receiving food stamps.

Since his inauguration last month, Bush and his staff have embraced a theme-of-the-week agenda, beginning with education. On Saturday, the president said he will continue to talk about the past week's focus: his efforts to enact a 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut.

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