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Gates Defends Defense Budget Request Before Senate Panel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2008 – The United States needs a defense establishment that confronts the full range of threats in the world today, and the president’s fiscal 2009 defense budget request would fund the military for that purpose, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.

The fiscal 2009 request includes $149.4 billion in military pay, health care, housing and quality-of-life funding for service personnel, DoD employees, and their families, Gates said. The request provides for $107.8 billion in pay and benefits, an increase of 9.8 percent over the fiscal 2008 enacted level. “This translates into pay raises of 3.4 percent for the military and 2.9 percent for civilian employees,” the secretary said.

The request calls for a base budget of $515.4 billion, which translates into 3.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. “This request is a 7.5 percent increase -- or $35.9 billion -- over last year’s enacted level,” Gates said in prepared testimony. “When accounting for inflation, this translates into a real increase of about 5.5 percent.”

The threats are real and changing, Gates told the lawmakers. Old hatreds have combined with new capabilities to pose different dangers to the United States, as terrorism, extremism, violent jihadism, and ethnic, tribal and sectarian conflicts provide outlets for the disgruntled and disenfranchised. Some states proliferate dangerous weapons, materials and delivery systems, he noted, while other, failing states provide havens for terrorists to plan and launch attacks.

Finally, the United States must be prepared for dealing with nations “discontented with their role in the international order and rising and resurgent powers whose future paths are uncertain,” Gates said.

The 2009 budget request calls for $183.8 billion in strategic modernization, a 4.7 percent increase over the previously enacted level. This includes more than $104 billon for procurement.

There is $9.2 billion for ground capabilities, including more than 5,000 Humvees and 4,000 tactical vehicles.

“This request provides $3.6 billion to continue development of the Future Combat System, the Army’s major modernization program, a portion of which I saw first-hand at Fort Bliss, Texas, about two and a half weeks ago,” Gates said. “I was impressed by what I saw.”

A total of $16.9 billion is allotted for maritime capabilities, with $14.2 billion for ship-building. “A fleet sized at 313 ships offers the agility required to meet a broadening array of operations and requirements with allies around the globe,” the secretary said.

The aviation budget is $45.6 billion and includes funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-22 Raptors, V-22 Ospreys, F/A-18 Hornet and Growler aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Gates said the budget funds the most critical Air Force need: the tanker fleet.

“The department believes a KC-135 replacement fleet of between 460 and 580 aircraft, combined with an additional 59 KC-10s, will provide suitable aerial refueling capacity,” he said.

This request provides $10.7 billion to strengthen joint space-based capabilities, Gates said. “The department’s heavy reliance on space capabilities is clear to potential adversaries, some of whom are developing anti-satellite weapons,” the secretary said. “Protecting our assets in space is, therefore, a high priority.” The budget will allow DoD to ramp up this defensive capability, he said.

“This budget includes new funding for critical ongoing initiatives such as ‘Global Train and Equip’ to build the security capacity of our partner nations, security and stabilization assistance, foreign language capabilities and the new Africa Command,” the secretary said.

Operations and maintenance funding is set at $158.3 billion in fiscal 2009. A total of $68 billion of the request will maintain combat readiness, focused on next-to-deploy units, Gates said. The request also includes $33.1 billion for logistical, intelligence and servicewide support; $32.6 billion for facility and base support; and $10.7 billion for training, recruiting and retention to ensure the all-volunteer force has the right people with the right skills.

Taking care of those wounded in service to America is a moral obligation, Gates said. DoD must see “that the superb life-saving care that the wounded receive initially is matched by quality outpatient treatment.”

The budget requests $466 million to accelerate and enhance construction of health care facilities at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., and at Fort Belvoir, Va., as well as establishing more warrior transition units.

“I hope Congress will fund these extraordinary facilities, along with our other health care requests,” Gates said. “America’s all-volunteer force must know that we will do everything possible to care for and heal the men and women injured in the line of duty.”

Gates also thanked the committee for its support for the military. He assured the committee members that the young American troops will meet every challenge.

“In visits to the combat theaters, in military hospitals, and in bases and posts at home and around the world, I continue to be amazed by their decency, resiliency and courage,” the secretary said. “Through the support of the Congress and our nation, these young men and women will prevail in the current conflicts and be prepared to confront the threats that they, their children and our nation may face in the future.”

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Robert M. Gates

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Transcript: Gates' Opening Statement

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