2014-03-04T013658Z_3_CBREA23044300_RTROPTP_2_NASA-GLOBALHAWK

Fear of losing tech edge factors into Pentagon budget plans

Handout photo of the Global Hawk at the aircraft hangar of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, VirginiaBy David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Concerns that cuts in defense spending could erode the U.S. military’s technological edge over rivals such as Russia and China are in part driving the Pentagon’s plans to slash troop levels and retire aging weapons. U.S. defense officials have watched in recent years as Moscow and Beijing have tested a string of sophisticated weapons, from radar-evading aircraft and anti-ship missiles that fly many times the speed of sound, to integrated air defenses. “The development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations means that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week. Hagel will unveil a 2015 budget on Tuesday that includes cutting the Army by 40,000 to 50,000 troops to levels last seen before the United States entered World War Two and killing off the fleet of tank-killing A-10 “Warthog” aircraft.

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