Defense Officials Discuss Budget Assumptions
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2008 Defense Department budget officials discussed assumptions they used to formulate the Pentagon’s fiscal 2009 budget request during a session with reporters yesterday.
DoD Comptroller Tina W. Jonas and Navy Vice Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, the Joint Staff’s resources director, also explained why some funding is in the main budget while other funds are part of emergency supplemental requests.
The fiscal 2009 baseline budget request is for $515 billion. The emergency supplemental request is for a $70 billion “bridge fund” to cover war expenses for the first part of the fiscal year.
Stanley said the difference between the two types of funding requests has to do with a determination on the department’s enduring missions.
Funds needed to field forces day to day are part of the baseline budget, the admiral said. DoD would request supplemental funds for unplanned major contingencies that require additional resources, he explained.
Jonas said additional forces for the Army and Marines in the department’s budget request give the United States the capacity needed to keep more forces forward without stressing those forces. The increase ultimately would allow the Army to go from 15-month deployments followed by a year at home station to 12-month deployments followed by 24 months at home. Marine deployments would go from seven months deployed and seven months home to seven months deployed and 14 months at home.
“How we resource that capacity and how we resource it around the world is what we’re wrestling with right now,” she said.
The fiscal 2009 defense budget request equals about 3.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The supplemental funding would put the percentage at around 4 percent. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believe it is eminently affordable to have 4 percent of GDP devoted to national security, Jonas said.
DoD needs Congress to weigh in on certain challenges in the budget, Jonas said. Changing health care payments is on that list. DoD proposes changing fees charged to military retirees who aren’t eligible for Medicare to participate in the Tricare military health plan. Tricare premiums haven’t risen since the program’s inception in 1993. “We spend more than Germany does on their entire defense on health care alone,” Jonas said.
Any change would need to be phased in over years and indexed to inflation, she said.
“At some point, this has got to be addressed in some way, and it’s going to take the engagement of all parties to address this,” she said. “Medical care is an important benefit, and we have to sustain it. We will try to make some progress on this this year, but I think it will be left to the next administration to deal with it.”