Obama seeks increase in Defense spending

The Obama administration Monday requested a $708.2 billion defense budget for fiscal 2011, plus an additional $33 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the fiscal year.

For fiscal 2011, the request includes $548.9 billion for the Defense Department's base budget -- an $18.2 billion, or 3.4 percent increase, over fiscal 2010 enacted levels -- as well as $159.3 billion to pay for the wars.

Within the base budget, the Pentagon is requesting $112.9 billion for procurement, an $8.1 billion increase over current spending. Among the priorities are 42 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, 52 Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles and 10 ships. There is also one F-35 in a separate fiscal 2011 budget request for "overseas contingency operations."

But research and development accounts took a hit, dropping about $4 billion from $80.6 billion this year to $76.7 billion in the request.

Meanwhile, the administration is seeking $200.2 billion for operations and maintenance accounts, a $15.8 billion increase over fiscal 2010. Military personnel accounts rose only slightly -- from $135 billion this year to $138.5 billion in the request.

As expected, the fiscal 2011 budget proposes ending Boeing Co.'s C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane and the General Electric/Rolls Royce alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The administration attempted to end both programs last year, but lawmakers added them back into the enacted fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, for a total of $3 billion.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would "strongly recommend" that President Obama veto any bill that restores funding for either of those two programs.

The latest budget request also ends the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance program, which the administration expects will save $73 million. In its place, the military ultimately plans to buy upgraded Space-Based Infrared System Satellites.

The request includes a 1.4 percent military pay increase, the smallest in recent memory but one the Office of Management and Budget says is "in line with those in the private sector." The administration also is requesting an average housing increase of 4.2 percent, as well as a variety of monthly special skill-based payments, enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses and other benefits.

As the Bush administration did during its wartime spending requests, the budget includes placeholder estimates for war funding of $50 billion a year for fiscal 2012 and beyond.

But OMB stressed that the estimates "do not reflect any policy decisions about specific military of intelligence operations, but are only intended to indicate that some as-yet unknown costs are anticipated."

Besides the F-35 purchases, the budget restructures the program to address concerns about cost and development. It also includes $864 million for research and development for a new tanker for the Air Force, reflecting the service's hopes to get the program under contract in fiscal 2011.

In addition, the Pentagon budget requests $200 million for a next-generation bomber, and pledges $1.7 billion for the effort between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015.

For the Army, the Pentagon is requesting $3.2 billion to modernize the service's brigade combat teams -- a follow-on effort to the Future Combat Systems, which was canceled last year.

Meanwhile, the budget includes $15.7 billion for Navy shipbuilding and conversion accounts. The requested funds will pay full or partial costs for 10 new ships, including two Virginia class submarines, two DDG-51 destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships, one Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement, one Mobile Landing Platform and two Joint High Speed Vessels, one of which is for the Army.

In addition, the budget includes $9.9 billion for missile defense programs.

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