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The Pentagon (Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has designed its 2017 budget request to push more money into the fight against the Islamic State group and shift resources for potential conflicts with Russia and China, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Tuesday.

“Key to our approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors,” Carter said during a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., a group of private sector and government leaders who meet regularly to hear from national policymakers. “To be clear, the U.S. military will fight very differently than we have in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in the rest of the world’s recent memory. We will be prepared for a high-end enemy.”

Compared to last year’s Defense Department budget, The $582.7 billion request for 2017 would double the amount of money that the United States spent battling Islamic State militants and would quadruple the amount it spends on defenses in Europe against continued Russian aggression.

To bolster the U.S. military’s fight against the Islamic State, the Pentagon wants to keep the A-10 Thunderbolt II warplane in the Air Force arsenal until 2022, a nod to the critical role the aircraft has played striking insurgent targets in Iraq and Syria. It also would fund the purchase of 45,000 smart bombs to replenish the supply for the Air Force, which has dropped more than 35,000 munitions against Islamic State targets since Operation Inherent Resolve began in August 2014.

But Carter said the United States must also focus on Russia and China.

Because of their actions, from Ukraine to the South China Sea, “DOD has elevated their importance in our defense planning and budgeting,” he said.

In the 2017 request, which will be delivered to Congress on Feb. 9, the Pentagon is seeking a base budget of $514.1 billion and a separate Overseas Contingency Operations account of $58.6 billion, which is within the limits set in December as part of last year’s budget agreement.

While the full details of the budget request will not be available until next week, Carter outlined some of his top initiatives, which include:

$3.4 billion to send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to Europe, and a brigade’s equivalent’s worth of additional tanks, vehicles and artillery to further shore up NATO defenses against Russian aggression. The request would quadruple the amount the United States is set to spend countering Russia in Europe in fiscal year 2016. $7.5 billion on operations against the Islamic State. $1.8 billion to purchase for 45,000 replacement smart bombs. $71.4 billion to support research and continued development of futuristic propulsion systems for jets, navigation and targeting systems for bombs, and swarming capabilities for both. $8.1 billion to develop advanced undersea weapons systems to counter recent advances in Chinese submarine technology.Defense budget experts already have questioned how the Pentagon can afford these initiatives, especially given the modernization expenses that the Pentagon faces for the next generation of submarines, stealth bombers and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. At a recent defense budget discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a panel of budget experts warned that the ongoing needs in Afghanistan and Iraq will make it more difficult to make the upgrades the Pentagon seeks.

“When the next administration takes office in January 2017, it will need to make many difficult choices to rationalize long-term defense modernization plans with the resources available,” Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the center, cautioned at the meeting.

Carter acknowledged the difficulty ahead.

“Budgets often require trade-offs … so where trade-offs among force structure, modernization and readiness posture needed to be made, we generally pushed to favor the latter two,” he said.

copp.tara@stripes.com Twitter: @taracopp

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