Officials Explain President's Defense Budget Request
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2007 The defense budget requests President Bush submitted to Congress today will “make the necessary strategic investments to modernize and recapitalize key capabilities in the armed forces,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.
Gates said the fiscal 2008 defense budget request and the 2007 emergency supplemental request for funding the global war on terror will help sustain the all-volunteer military by reducing stress on the force and improving quality of life for U.S. troops and their families.
The $481.4 billion budget request will improve readiness through additional training and maintenance and by resetting forces following overseas deployments, Gates said. The $93.4 billion supplemental measure will help fund U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the campaign against violent jihadist networks around the globe.
Gates said that since he last served in government, DoD has taken a relatively smaller share of U.S. gross domestic product. In 1993, the Defense Department consumed 4.4 percent of GDP. Today, the percentage is 3.8 percent. This is occurring while the “world is getting more complicated and more dangerous,” Gates said.
“The resources we devote to defense,” he said, “should be at the level to adequately meet the challenges of the global strategic environment.”
Pentagon Comptroller Tina W. Jonas told reporters that DoD has delivered more than 38,000 pages of explanation to members of Congress and their staffs to justify the issues in the defense budget request. She said the request is aimed at fulfilling the mission to prevail in the global war on terror, increase combat capability of U.S. forces, improve force readiness and improve quality of life for U.S. troops and their families.
Jonas said DoD’s “straight-line projection” for fiscal 2008 has pegged the cost of the global war on terror at $141.7 billion. She said whether the president ascends up asking for this money depends on situations around the world.
The 2008 “base budget” invests in four primary areas, Jonas said: readiness and support at $146.5 billion, strategic modernization at $176.8 billion, military pay and health care at $137 billion and family housing and facilities at $21.1 billion.
Jonas broke the military pay and benefits portion of the budget down further. The department’s request provides a 3 percent pay raise for 2.1 million active-duty and reserve-component personnel. It provides $15 billion for the basic allowance for housing and $4.3 billion for the basic allowance for subsistence. It also provides $38.7 billion for military health care. The military health program provides care to 9.2 million beneficiaries, she said.
Civilian pay – while not covered in this request – also is set for a 3-percent increase in fiscal 2008.
Troops going to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility are fully trained to handle counterinsurgency activities, said Navy Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, the Joint Staff’s director for force structure, resources and assessment. The $146.5 billion in the readiness and support section of the budget fully funds training for troops to be able to handle all contingencies, he said. The number of troops being assigned to duty in Afghanistan and Iraq has increased the risks the military takes, the admiral noted.
“There are three issues that are driving the risk,” Stanley said. “The first is the number of forces deployed forward. Second, equipment utilization and wear on the equipment – the operational tempo that is affecting the risk. What we’re challenged with is maintaining the full-spectrum training capability that our nation requires for our forces.”
In strategic modernization, the Navy’s ship and aviation budget supports the 30-year shipbuilding plan by funding eight ships.
Ground capabilities are funded at $37.9 billion, and the Missile Defense Agency will receive $8.8 billion under the proposal.