Bush Pushes Plan For
Space Weapons
Proposes Boost For Missile Shield
$2.4 Trillion Budget Outlined

By Charles Aldinger and Jim Wolf
Reuters News Agency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is planning to put the first weapons in space despite broad international opposition, budget papers sent yesterday to the American Congress showed.
Bush's $2.4 trillion (U.S.) spending plans for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 include an unspecified sum for developing and testing "advanced, lightweight, space-based (missile) interceptor components," the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency said.
In its budget overview, the agency said it was seeking $47 million to start "technology development" of such weapons and others that could be phased into a multi-layered U.S. missile shield starting in January, 2012.
In the two years thereafter, the Pentagon aims to base a handful of missile interceptors in orbit for testing, the agency said.
Any such setup, whether space-based lasers or interceptor rockets in orbit, could give the United States the means to attack enemy satellites as well as incoming warheads.
The 2005 budget is the first to set aside funds to start developing the kind of weapons former U.S. president Ronald Reagan had in mind when he called for a space-based Strategic Defence Initiative in 1983.
Critics decried Reagan's vision as "Star Wars" for fear it would launch an arms race in space.
Bush proposed a $401.7 billion defence budget for 2005, and the White House said he was likely to seek up to $50 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The budget would increase U.S. military spending by 7 per cent over the current year.
And it would steadily boost spending to $487.8 billion in five years despite growing budget deficits.
In addition to the deficit issue, the budget is certain to stir bitter debate in Congress over Bush's call to boost funding for missile defence by $1.2 billion to $10.2 billion next year.
It also would nearly double current funding to modernize the army and increase spending on unmanned spy planes for use in Iraq and to help fight what Bush calls the war on terrorism.
Democrats and some U.S. allies have criticized the plan to quickly begin deploying a limited anti-missile shield, warning it has not been adequately tested.
Democrats also criticized Bush's plans to slash funding for scores of U.S. government programs.
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.
===== "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." -George Orwell, '1984'
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