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US military announces cut in major defence programmes


Under the proposed plans, the Marine Corps' new amphibious assault vehicle (EFV) could be shaved off. A Marines Corps photo

WASHINGTON (AP): US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is announcing the latest round of cost-cutting measures for the military, including a plan to do away with a new amphibious vehicle that can ferry troops to shore while under fire.

The plan is aimed at staving off potentially deeper cuts by the White House or Congress by showing that the Pentagon is taking seriously a call to rein in the nation's deficit.

The Defence Department is responsible for the biggest piece of discretionary spending in the federal government's annual budget.

It's been largely protected until now. Newly elected conservative tea party activists, including Republican Sen Rand Paul, have said that cuts to military spending must be considered if the federal government is to reduce its deficit.

"Gates has done a good job so far in protecting the budget," said Loren Thompson, head of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and adviser to several major defence contractors.

"But the deficit is so huge and the other claims on the budget so big that he is starting to lose ground," Thompson said.

Gates was on Thursday expected to announce that he would cancel a $13 billion plan to buy the Marines amphibious assault vehicles from General Dynamics Corp called the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

While a top priority for the Marine Corps, the EFV has long been considered a target of Gates as he looked to trim the budget. Gates has questioned whether D-Day-style landings are going to be common in future wars when the enemy is developing sophisticated weapons that can easily attack ships hovering close to shore.

Other cost-cutting measures were planned as well, including the delay of the Marine version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to defence analysts familiar with the plan.

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Defence  F-35  US Navy  

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