WASHINGTON: The fiscal 2011 defense budget request includes modest but necessary spending increases in line with President Barack Obama’s effort to balance national security with economic needs, the deputy defense secretary told Congress members today.
The $708 billion request “reflects the administration’s commitment to modest, steady, and sustainable growth in defense spending,” William J. Lynn III told the House and Senate budget committees in prepared testimony. “Even as the president imposes a spending freeze on domestic agencies, he has made a strategic choice to continue funding modest growth in the military and in other national security agencies.”
The request includes $549 billion in discretionary budget authority for baseline defense programs, an increase of more than $18 billion over the current year. Lynn, accompanied by Robert Hale, Pentagon comptroller, said the increase is necessary to increase pay and benefits to match inflation and fund programs such as health-care expenses, which are growing beyond the rate of inflation.
“Because the total cost of sustaining the force is growing faster than inflation, [the Defense Department] needs real growth simply to maintain present force levels,” Lynn said. “Sustaining our current size and capabilities is essential to prosecute current wars, meet U.S. commitments worldwide, and conduct unanticipated operations, including relief efforts for natural disasters.
“We cannot afford to make cuts in the size of our force or our operations while we are at war,” he added.
The budget reaffirms the commitment to the all-volunteer force, Lynn said, with $138.5 billion for military pay and allowances that includes a 1.4 percent pay raise; $2.2 billion for programs to support wounded warriors; $50.7 billion for medical coverage for 9.5 million beneficiaries; $8.1 billion for family support programs; and $18.7 billion for military construction and family housing.
Lynn noted health care as an area of large growth, but one in which the department also has found savings in the budget. “Health care is one area in particular where the introduction of efficiencies may yield cost savings,” he said. “If present trends continue, we can expect health care to consume 10 percent of [the department’s] budget by 2015.”
The request continues the “rebalancing” of the defense posture for the current wars while preparing for future conflicts by providing more rotary-wing aircraft; hiring 1,500 new helicopter pilots; and increased funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, electronic warfare platforms and special operations.
The budget includes $189 billion for conventional and strategic modernization, including $10.7 billion for continued development of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter and procurement of 42 of the aircraft; $25.1 billion for procurement of new ships, equipment and research and development; $9.9 billion for missile defense; and $3.2 billion to restructure the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.
“These advanced weapons and capabilities are essential to keep us ahead of our adversaries,” Lynn said. “We need weapons systems that give U.S. forces an overwhelming advantage in combat, which will both save lives and shorten conflicts.”
Another priority, the deputy secretary said, is reforming the acquisition process. The base budget request will allow the department to bolster its acquisitions work force for the eventual hiring of 20,000 workers to replace contractors. The “in-sourcing” ultimately will reduce costs and operational risks and ensure that every defense dollar is spent wisely, he added.
The ax must fall on programs the department doesn’t need or that are costing more than expected, Lynn said. “An important component of acquisition reform is having the discipline to curtail or end unneeded and troubled programs,” he told the legislators. The budget request calls for cutting seven major systems: the Next Generation Cruiser, the Navy Intelligence Aircraft, the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance System, the Net Enabled Command and Control System, the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, more C-17 Globemaster III transport jets and an alternate engine for the joint strike fighter.
Besides the base budget, the request includes $159.3 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes $89.4 billion for operations, $12 billion for force protection, $3.3 billion to counter roadside bombs, $13.6 billion to grow and train Afghan and Iraqi security forces, $2 billion for coalition support, $1.3 billion for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program and $21.3 billion for the reconstruction and resetting of equipment.
“Building the capacity for partner nations to support U.S. counterterrorism operations has emerged as a crucial national security priority,” Lynn said.