President Requests $533.7 Billion for Defense in Base Budget 


            President Barack Obama is requesting $533.7 billion for the Defense Department for Fiscal Year 2010, a 4 percent increase over the last fiscal year.  He is also requesting $75 billion in emergency spending for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for this fiscal year and $130 billion for FY 2010.  The request anticipates continued American withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq in FY 2010.

            Pay raises of 2.9 percent for military members and 2 percent for federal employees are included in the request.

            The budget outline, released Feb. 26, also calls for financing the Army to an end strength over 547,400 soldiers in the active force.

            Speaking to reporters in the Pentagon Feb. 26, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Over the past few months, different figures for the department's base budget top line have been the subject of speculation and debate, including a draft budget of more than $580 billion. That last figure represented a notional effort I authorized to begin shifting war costs in a significant way from the supplementals to the base budget, additional procurement, and anticipated real costs in terms of health care benefits and pay. That proposal was not formally submitted anywhere outside this building. 

            “The number that matters is the one announced by the president today, and it represents an increase of more than $20 billion over last year's Defense appropriation. In our country's current economic circumstances, I believe that represents a strong commitment to our security. “

            Without singling out any specific program, Gates added over the next few weeks, “hard choices” will have to be made on the defense budget. He also acknowledged that personnel costs, particularly health care, were rising.

            The request also calls for expansion of concurrent receipt and Veterans Disability Compensation, part of the Association of the United States Army’s legislative agenda.

            On weapons systems, the budget outline said, “The administration will set realistic requirements and stick to them and incorporate ‘best practices’ by not allowing programs to proceed from one stage of the acquisition cycle to the next until they have achieved the maturity to clearly lower the risk of cost growth and schedule slippage.”

            On caring for the wounded and injured, “DoD will complete additional Army wounded warrior complexes at posts throughout the continental United States, as well as sites in Alaska, Hawaii, and Germany. DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs will expand pilot programs to expedite processing of injured troops through the Disability Evaluation System.”

             It also calls for DoD to “fully implement a comprehensive TBI registry including a single point of responsibility to track incidents and recovery.  The services will expand the number of integrated mental health professionals with their deployed units to better channel medical attention to those who need help quickly. The National Intrepid Center of Excellence for psychological health and traumatic brain injury will be dedicated in the late fall of 2009. This will serve as the clinical research and educational arm of DoD’s Center of Excellence for psychological health and TBI.”

            Before the budget outline was released, Gates  asked those participating in the discussions on the details of the budget expected to be released in late March or early April. to sign a nondisclosure agreement because leaks may discourage the free exchange of ideas, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Feb. 25. 

            “This is highly sensitive stuff, involving programs costing tens of billions of dollars, employing hundreds of thousands of people and go to the heart of our national security,” Morrell said. “He wants this process to be as disciplined and as forthright as possible.”

            Gates wants the budget to be judged as a whole, rather than in parts via selective leaks, Morrell said. The secretary thinks the agreement “will create a climate in which you can ultimately produce a better product, as people can speak candidly with the confidence that it will not be leaked,” he added.

            At his press conference after the budget outline was release, Gates added, “In the days to come, any information you may receive about budget or program decisions will undoubtedly be wrong because I intend to wait until the end of our review process before making any decisions. Putting together a budget package this large, complex and interrelated requires a coherent and holistic process -- a process that would be undermined if decisions about particular programs are made piecemeal or before the assessment is complete.”