The 2010 US Defense Budget

This week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the Obama administration’s defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2010.  Defense spending is projected to increase to $534 billion, $21 billion more than the previous year.  It is the 11th consecutive year that the core defense budget, not counting funds for ongoing military operations, has risen in real terms.

 

Some major changes in procurement and force structure include:

·         Increasing the size of the Army, Marine Corps and special operations forces and spending more money on care for veterans and their families

·         Buying more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

·         Procuring more Littoral Combat Ships and fewer DDg-1000 destroyers and aircraft carriers

·         Ending production of F-22 fighter jets and increasing production of F-35s

·         Canceling the Army Future Combat Systems vehicle program

·         Decreasing funding for missile defense

 

The administration’s budget is designed to improve America’s ability to fight irregular wars with less emphasis on preparing for conventional conflicts.  Secretary Gates mentioned several times that the proposal is largely based on military experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He assumes that the US is much more likely to be involved in counterinsurgency campaigns than wars against foreign armies.

 

In a speech on Tuesday, he said “This is a reform budget, reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan yet also addressing a range of potential threats around the world.  Some will say I am too focused on the wars we are in and not enough on future threats.  But it is important to remember that every defense dollar spend to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk—or, in effect, to “run up the score” in a capability where the United States is already dominant—is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable.”

 

The budget proposal will certainly provoke a debate within the defense establishment and Congress about the proper force structure and weapons systems for the US military.  Some will argue that the Obama administration’s focus on unconventional conflicts is correct because those are the types of wars the US will most likely be engaged in in the foreseeable future given the nature of America’s non-state enemies and the deterrent effect of the military’s overwhelming superiority with regard to conventional fighting capabilities.  Others will say that the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are aberrations and that the US should be better prepared to combat other powers such as a rising China and a resurgent Russia.  For now, it appears that the “small wars” crowd will win out.

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