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Remodeling defense: Think prevention

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The Pentagon is getting a facelift. The building famous for its fives - five sides, five floors, five concentric rings - now has five wedges. As staff vacate their offices in the 60-year-old structure, construction crews strip the monster down to its skeleton and rebuild it, one giant pie-slice at a time.

A second reconstruction crew is also at work in the Pentagon, this one remodeling America's huge defense establishment. In modern times, every new president has ordered a government-wide review of policies and organization. The Bush team gathered extra headlines for the high ambitions of its Defense Strategy Review. But where the overdue building renovation is delivering new office spaces, the latest rethink of strategy seems mostly to be creating requirements for the taxpayer to spend more money on high-tech versions of the same old military establishment.

During last year's electioneering, both presidential candidates proposed more money for defense. As the Bush team sorts through the Pentagon's programs, some observers complain that the new president, who thus far has asked for an extra $18 billion, is still not protecting America's security. Gripes are said also to be coming from the military brass who heard the campaign slogan "Help is on the way" as a promise of lots more cash. Always alert to the flow of defense monies into their constituents' pockets, members of Congress on the left and right are jumping in to advocate for their local bases and defense contracts. What started out as an overdue overhaul is degenerating into just another budget battle.


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