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'People Come First,' Zakheim Says of Proposed DoD Budget

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2002 – DoD's proposed fiscal 2003 budget request rightly provides for increased pay, better housing, and addresses other quality-of-life troop issues, DoD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim said Feb. 14 at the Pentagon.

"People come first, that is the priority," noted Zakheim, the department's chief financial officer. In fact, $94 billion -- almost a quarter of the proposed $379 billion DoD budget -- is slated for improved military pay and allowances alone.

The proposed '03 Pentagon budget, he said, contains a 4.1 percent across-the-board military pay raise and targeted raises for some noncommissioned and commissioned officers.

Zakheim said the proposed budget also provides $4.2 billion to be used to eliminate substandard military housing by 2007, three years ahead of previous plans.

Other money, he remarked, is earmarked to reduce service members' out-of-pocket housing expenses. By 2005, those expenses will be gone, he noted.

Zakheim said $22 billion is allocated to the defense health program. And, military retirees over age 65 can now use TRICARE For Life health program benefits. "Everyone who wears a uniform is entitled to the best possible health care," he emphasized.

The proposed '03 DoD budget's military pay raises and improved benefits illustrate how senior government and DoD leaders want to ensure that service members' "welfare is second to none," he concluded.

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