By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 8, 2009
Afghanistan war funding surpasses the outlay for Iraq for the first time in next year's proposed Pentagon budget, demonstrating a shift in priorities that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seeks to execute in defense spending.
The $130 billion in war funds that are part of the fiscal 2010 budget request includes $65 billion for Afghanistan operations and $61 billion for Iraq. For 2009, $87 billion was requested for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan.
The budget covers the deployment of 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year, raising the total to 68,000. More funds would be required if President Obama decides to meet the request of U.S. commanders for 10,000 more troops next year.
The budget includes $700 million for training and equipment to improve Pakistan's counterinsurgency capability, a major increase in such assistance over the $400 million sought for this year.
The Pentagon's $534 billion base budget is $21 billion, or 4 percent, larger than last year's. It includes key initiatives that reflect Gates's plan to reshape the military so it is more suited to fighting today's wars and less focused on preparing for future conflicts.
Major spending increases include $2 billion on intelligence and reconnaissance, $500 million to field and maintain helicopters, and funds to add 2,400 personnel to Special Operations Forces in 2010 as well as aircraft to support them. More will be spent on some modern weapons systems, with an increase in the purchase of littoral combat ships and the "fifth generation" F-35 fighter jets.
However, budgetary pressure has slowed the growth of defense spending overall, which increased 2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms for 2010, compared with an average of 4 percent from 2001 to 2009.
The 2010 Pentagon budget proposed by Obama eliminates $8.8 billion in weapons programs that were in the 2009 budget, restructuring or terminating those considered "troubled."
It would halt the program for the F-22 fighter jet after 187 are manufactured. Other major cuts include ending the $13 billion presidential helicopter program, which has more than doubled in cost; the $19 billion transformational satellite program; and the Air Force combat search-and-rescue helicopter program, as well as cutting $1.2 billion from missile defense.
The Army's Future Combat System would have its ground vehicle program terminated. The Army has been asked to incorporate into that system new mine-resistant vehicles developed for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite opposition raised by lawmakers in Congress and industry since Gates announced planned cuts to weapons programs last month, senior defense officials said the Pentagon is not backing away from its reforms. There have been "no significant adjustments" to the budget request, said Robert Hale, the Pentagon's comptroller.
Regarding an estimate by defense contractors that 100,000 or more jobs could be at risk because of the cuts, Hale said job losses "were never discussed" during the formulation of the new budget. He said jobs lost in some sectors would be gained in others.
Emphasizing the need to care for the all-volunteer force, the budget includes a 2.9 percent pay raise for military members and increased spending on research to find treatments for traumatic brain injury and mental health problems. Health care costs for military personnel have ballooned in recent years and will consume $47 billion of the 2010 budget.
"Military health care is eating our budgetary lunch," Hale said. The 1990s freeze on increases in medical care co-payments for military personnel, while intact for next year, will probably have to be revisited by Congress, he said.
The budget for the National Nuclear Security Agency, which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons program, is at $6.4 billion, close to this year's number. It reflects a decision to wait for conclusion of the Nuclear Posture Review, which will set both future strategy and stockpile numbers before making any major changes in the program.
One significant increase is the $84.1 million for dismantlement of older weapons, up almost 50 percent from over last year.
Staff writer Walter Pincus contributed to this report.