Defense budget proposal boosts benefits

Bush administration’s $419 billion request, almost 5 percent more than last year, also curtails spending on some weapons systems.

Under the Bush budget, civilian jobs in the Defense Department would increase only slightly, from 698,000 to 701,000. Some of those will come from military-to-civilian conversions, but officials said those conversions often result in the elimination of positions.

The Bush administration has proposed a $419.3 billion Defense Department budget for fiscal 2006--a nearly 5 percent increase over last year -- that would boost spending on military benefits for retirees and reservists and on Army reorganization, but would curtail some weapons spending.

The Pentagon also is expected to provide details later this week about a proposed $80 billion supplemental defense budget for fiscal 2005. It would cover the costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would include funding to replace equipment that has been damaged or worn out during the wars.

A senior Defense official told reporters that the 2006 request was a "healthy increase" for the Pentagon and noted that since 2001, military spending has grown by 41 percent. Last year, the Defense Department's budget was $400 billion, not including supplemental funding for wars.

Despite the increase, the budget shows a small decrease in proposed spending for new weapons systems, which falls by $100 million to $78 billion. The Pentagon has proposed scaling back several major weapons buys, including the F/A-22 Raptor aircraft, Navy Virginia-class submarines, and Marine Corps V-22 aircraft, to help address a growing federal deficit.

A senior Defense official said new benefits for military retirees and expanding the military health-care system to reservists will cost an additional $20 billion in fiscal 2006.

The proposed spending priorities in the budget include:

  • $35 billion over seven years to restructure the Army into lighter, more deployable warfighting units.
  • $2.1 billion over six years to increase chemical and biological protection for troops.
  • $4.1 billion for Special Forces, adding 200 civilian and 1,200 military personnel.
  • $1.4 billion to convert 6,400 military positions into jobs that can be done by civilians or contractors.
  • $1.9 billion to begin to close bases recommended by the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure Commission.