United States

US defence budget faces 78 billion dollar cuts

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

The United States is to cut 78 billion dollars from its defence budget by 2015, Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced on Thursday. But the proposed budget for 2012 is 553 billion dollars, an increase of three per cent.

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Future budgets will gradually be scaled back to zero real growth in 2015 and 2016, when the US is planning to hand over control of Afghan security to the Afghan army.

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It will mean the army is reduced by 27,000 troops and the marine corps by 15,000-20,000 in 2015-2016. It is the first time since the 1990s that ground forces are being reduced.

“This country's dire fiscal situation and the threat it poses to American influence and credibility around the world will only get worse unless the US government gets its finances in order," said Gates.

The army is currently at 569,000 troops, after a temporary increase of an additional 22,000 troops, and the marine corps has about 202,000 personnel.

“Our investment priorities, bureaucratic habits, and lax attitudes towards costs are increasingly divorced from the real threats of today, the growing perils of tomorrow, and the nation's grim financial outlook," Gates added.

The cuts include cancelling the amphibious landing craft, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which cost more than three billion dollars to develop and 12 billion to build.

The Pentagon's network of intelligence organisations will be consolidated and reorganised, eliminating about 100 generals and flag officer positions out of a total of 900.

On Thursday the Pentagon said an additional 1,400 marines were to be sent to southern Afghanistan to preempt a Taliban spring offensive, despite a planned troop drawdown starting in July.

The marines could start arriving within weeks and will be on the ground for less than 90 days. They are supposed to cement tentative gains against the mostly Pashtun insurgency between Kandahar city and Helmand province, according to defence officials.

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