Gates briefs press about FY 2012 budget
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2011 -- President Barack Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 defense budget request continues the department's reform agenda, but protects personnel and family programs, Pentagon officials said.

Overall, the Defense Department budget is declining, with funding for overseas contingency operations dropping by $41.5 billion, due mainly to military operations winding down in Iraq, officials said.

The president is asking Congress for $671 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2012, which starts Oct. 1. The budget calls for $553 billion in the "base budget" and $117.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By appropriation, military personnel accounts are $142.8 billion of the base budget. Operations and maintenance is $204.4 billion, procurement is $113 billion and research and development is $75.3 billion.

The Army portion of the base budget is $144.9 billion, the Navy and Marine Corps portion is $161.4 billion, and the Air Force share is set at $150 billion. Defense Department spending is pegged at $96.8 billion.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates continually has stressed his concern for the people portion of the budget. The secretary has called servicemembers the "military's greatest strategic asset," and is putting his money where his mouth is. The president's budget request calls for the nation's 2.3 million servicemembers to receive a 1.6 percent pay raise, equal to the Employment Cost Index, an indicator that tracks movement in the cost of labor.

The budget funds an end-strength for the services 65,000 people greater than in Fiscal Year 2007. The Army's end strength will be 547,000, with the Marine's coming in at 202,100. The Navy's end strength is set at 325,000, and the Air Force at 332,800.

All told, the department's end strength will be 1,408,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 if this budget is approved. In Fiscal Year 2007, the end strength was 1,328,500, and the Army and Marine Corps in particular were stressed by repeated deployments and not enough garrison time in between.

The 2012 end strength will help the services meet the goal of one year deployed and two years at home. This "dwell time" is crucial to the health of the force, officials said.

The budget provides for the basic allowance for housing to rise 4.2 percent, and the basic allowance for subsistence by 3.4 percent.

The budget includes $52.5 billion for the Military Health System. The system, which has 9.6 million beneficiaries, has seen its budget more than double since Fiscal Year 2001, when it was $19 billion.

This year's request will attempt to rein those costs in. Systemically, the budget calls for reducing overhead, standardizing procurement and other ideas to leverage the buying power of such a huge enterprise. The money also will fund preventive care, immunizations and programs to combat obesity, tobacco use and alcohol abuse.

The budget also calls for a modest premium increase for working-age military retirees enrolled in the TRICARE Prime military health plan. The budget sets the increases at $2.50 per month for individuals and $5 per month for families in Fiscal Year 2012, and for the premiums to be indexed to Medicare inflation thereafter.

The medical funding request also is aimed at providing services for wounded troops. The money will fund programs to provide a seamless transition from the Defense Department's medical system to that of the Veterans Affairs Department for wounded servicemembers who leave the military.

It also provides $1.1 billion for research into traumatic brain injury and psychological health issues stemming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense leaders understand that military families also serve the country, officials said, noting that Gates has vowed to protect military families from the budgetary ax. The Fiscal Year 2012 budget shifts funding for military families into the base budget, ensuring these programs don't disappear as combat deployments and war funding decline, officials said.

The budget provides funding for child care space for more than 200,000 children, as well as funding for family support centers and morale, welfare and recreation programs. The budget funds the education of almost 95,000 students at DoD Education Activity schools in 12 countries and almost 35,000 students in seven states, Puerto Rico and Guam.

More than a half billion dollars will go to replacing or modernizing schools at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; New River, N.C.; and Dahlgren, Va. The money also will replace or modernize five schools in Germany, two in Japan, one in Italy and one in the United Kingdom.

The more than 600,000 civilians in the DoD work force will not receive a raise in calendar years 2011 and 2012 as part of the larger government-wide freeze on wages. The department intends to hold the civilian work force at Fiscal Year 2010 levels, though exceptions will be made for the on-going acquisition work force improvement strategy, officials said.

The budget also seeks increasing opportunities for flexible work schedules, including teleworking options.

But the focus remains on the current wars. About 48,500 American troops remain in Iraq, and about 98,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, officials noted, and Afghanistan and Pakistan remain the focal point in the war on extremist groups such as al-Qaida.

Some U.S. and coalition forces are fighting against extremists while others are training the Afghan security forces to take on the security mission in the country. Last year, 30,000 more American troops surged into Afghanistan, and NATO nations and other coalition contributed 10,000 more.

These forces have been successful in arresting Taliban and al-Qaida forces' momentum and have turned the tide, official said. Now, they added, the forces are expanding their "security bubbles" and looking for ways to make the gains permanent.

Most of the $117.8 billion in the overseas contingency operations fund -- some $67 billion -- goes to operations. Training Afghan forces consumes the next-largest amount, at $12.8 billion.

The budget invests $2.6 billion into defeating the biggest killer of American personnel, the improvised explosive device. Another $6 billion goes into military intelligence funding, which includes investments in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

The budget request calls for three more Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, 48 more Reaper UAVs, 36 more Gray Eagle UAVs and 12 maritime UAVs, as well as 12 more MC-12 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

The Fiscal Year 2012 budget request also sets the stage for the future, putting the defense secretary's restructuring of the F-35 joint strike fighter program in concrete. The request puts more money into research and development for the fifth-generation fighter and defers procurement to the out years. Still, DoD will receive 32 of the planes in Fiscal Year 2012. The budget request also puts the vertical-lift version of the aircraft on a two-year probation period.

The budget request also provides for:

-- Procurement of 28 more F/A-18E/F fighter aircraft and 12 more EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft;

-- A stabilized ship-building effort, with two Virginia-class submarines, a DDG-51 destroyer, four littoral combat ships, an LPD-17 amphibious assault ship and two joint high-speed vessels.

-- Investment of $2 billion in long-range strike capabilities, most notably through a new Air Force bomber that will be stealthy and nuclear-capable while giving planners the option of piloting it remotely.

-- $900 million for new air-to-air refueling tankers, and money for a new family of armored vehicles and a joint light tactical vehicle.

So the department doesn't shortchange servicemembers of the future, officials said, the budget request includes two percent real growth in basic research and holds the remainder of the science and technology budget steady. All told, the science and technology budget is set at $12.2 billion, officials added.

Related Links:

Army FY 2012 Budget Overview (.pdf download)

Army releases budget request for Fiscal Year 2012