Iraq, Afghanistan funded separately at $118 billion
President Barack Obama’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012 was forwarded to Capitol Hill on Feb. 14.
The president is requesting $553 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, an increase of $22 billion above the Fiscal Year 2010 appropriation.
The incremental costs of funding Overseas Contingency Operations, including the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan and transition activities in Iraq are funded separately in the budget at $118 billion.
Of the $553 billion request, the Army would receive $144.9 billion.
In a Pentagon press conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “The budget decisions took place in the context of the nearly two-year effort by this department to reduce overhead, cull troubled programs, and rein in personnel and contractor costs, all for the purpose of preserving the fighting strength of America's military at a time of fiscal stress.
“The goal is not only to generate savings that could be applied to new capabilities and programs, but for our defense institutions to become more agile and effective organizations as a result.
“In all these budget requests, if enacted by the Congress, we'll continue our efforts to reform the way the department does business, fund modernization programs needed to prepare for future conflicts, reaffirm and strengthen the nation's commitment to care for the all- volunteer force, including training and support, and ensure that our troops and commanders on the front lines have the resources and support they need to accomplish their mission.”
The budget would:
- Fund an Army end strength of 547,400. A defense budget press release said that the “2012 end strength will help the services meet the goal of one year deployed and two years at home.”
- This “dwell time” is crucial to the health of the force, officials said. In a Pentagon news conference, officials also added that the proposed 27,000 cut in Army end strength starting in 2015 was “condition based.”
- Provide $172 billion to support training and readiness and continues efforts to rebalance military forces to focus on both today’s wars as well as potential future conflicts.
- Provide $500 million for DoD’s global military “train and equip” assistance programs.
- Provide for the basic allowance for housing to rise 4.2 percent, and the basic allowance for subsistence by 3.4 percent.
- Include funding for a 1.6 percent pay raise for military service members, as well as a variety of monthly special skill-based payments, enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, and other benefits.
- Provide $677 million to provide care for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.
- Provide $415 million for continued support of wounded, ill and injured medical research, to include psychological health and TBI/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Pay for the first two years of the “doc fix” – which will prevent a nearly 30 percent cut in reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare/TRICARE patients.
- Fund the construction of the Fort Bliss, Texas, hospital replacement.
- Fund full implementation of the new DoD-VA joint medical exam process.
- Propose to shift future enrollees of the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan (USFHP) into Medicare and TRICARE-for-Life program when the enrollees become Medicare-eligible at age 65.
- Provide $8.3 billion to support military families. Officials said that the Fiscal Year 2012 budget shifts funding for military families into the base budget, ensuring these programs don’t disappear as combat deployments and war funding decline.
- This includes $1.2 billion to expand availability of affordable child care; $2.4 billion for DoD schools and funds to improve service member quality-of-life programs.
- Provide more than a half billion dollars to replace or modernize schools at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; New River, N.C.; and Dahlgren, Va.
- The money also will replace or modernize five schools in Germany, two in Japan, one in Italy and one in the United Kingdom.
- Freeze pay raises for the more than 600,000 civilians in the DoD work force in calendar years 2011 and 2012 as part of the larger government-wide freeze on wages.
- The department intends to hold the civilian work force at fiscal 2010 levels, though exceptions will be made for the on-going acquisition work force improvement strategy, officials said.
- Fund tuition assistance and intern programs to support military spouses’ employment opportunities, with full funding for the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Program ($190 million) and funds to support the Military Spouse Federal Intern Program to assist in securing positions in other Federal agencies ($17 million).
Finally, the budget includes $52.5 billion for the Military Health System.
It proposes a package of health care efficiency and management reforms that are projected to save nearly $8 billion over the next five years including reducing DoD Health Affairs/TRICARE Management Activity Headquarters staff by 780 contract personnel.
The budget would standardize procurement and implement other ideas to leverage the buying power of such a huge enterprise.
The budget dollars would also fund programs for preventive care, immunizations and programs to combat obesity, tobacco use and alcohol abuse.
The budget makes adjustments to retail and mail order pharmacy co-pays to incentivize the use of generic drugs and the most efficient source to fill prescriptions.
Co-pay for prescriptions filled in retail pharmacies will increase by no more than $3.00, while the co-pay for generic drugs filled through mail order will be eliminated. There continues to be no co-pay for prescriptions filled at military treatment facilities.
As expected, the budget implements a modest increase to TRICARE Prime enrollment fees for working age retirees: $2.50 per month for individuals and $5.00 per month for families in FY 2012 and then indexed to medical inflation in future years (increases do not apply to survivors or medically retired members and their beneficiaries).
Tying the increases in the out years to medical inflation would have meant a 3.4 percent rise this year.
It would have risen to 1.4 percent if it had been tied to the military’s annual raise in basic pay. Fees would have remained flat if linked to retired pay because, for the second year in a row, there is no cost-of-living adjustment for retirees.
In response to a reporter’s question about how much money would be brought in by the health care budget proposals, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale said, “The total savings for all of our health care proposals are almost 8 billion (dollars) over the five years.
So the TRICARE enrollment fee is a fairly small part of it in these five years. But again, it will be growing in the years beyond.”
The ball is now in Congress’ court. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, head to Capitol Hill for a round of hearings on the defense budget.