By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceJanuary 29, 2010
WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2010) -- Though President Barack Obama announced a three-year discretionary federal spending freeze during his State of the Union Message last night, it won't apply to defense spending.
The initiative, to begin next year, won't affect national security programs, the president told a joint session of Congress gathered at the Capitol for the address.
While not revealing specifics about the fiscal 2011 budget request he'll send to Congress on Feb. 1, the president made clear he will ensure warfighters have what they need to succeed. He also emphasized his continuing support for veterans programs.
"Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform - in Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world -- ... have to know that they have our respect, our gratitude and our full support," he said. "And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home."
First Lady Michelle Obama offered more details about the budget request earlier this week, telling military spouses at Bolling Air Force Base here that it calls for a record $8.8 billion for military family support programs. This represents a 3 percent increase over current funding, she told attendees at the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives Club annual luncheon, and provides more money for child care, Department of Defense Education Activity schools and programs for military families and veterans.
It also will include a 1.4 percent basic military pay raise and an average 4.2 percent housing allowance increase.
The president urged Congress last night to brush aside bipartisan differences to address the fundamental values all Americans share. "Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security," he said.
"I know that all of us love this county. All of us are committed to its defense," he said. "Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future - for America and the world."
Obama cited strengthened U.S. partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula, and stepped-up efforts he credited with capturing or killing hundreds of extremists, including many of their senior leaders.
The president noted the troop surge under way in Afghanistan to build on this effort, and said he is "absolutely confident we will succeed."
While taking the fight to al-Qaida, the United States will continue the troop drawdown in Iraq, as the Iraqis take security responsibility for their country, he told Congress.
"We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and security," he said. "But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."