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Budget to Reflect Key Defense Priorities, OMB Director Says

WASHINGTON --- The 2010 defense budget being finalized by the Obama administration will maintain priorities such as quality-of-life improvements and acquisition reform as it caps other defense spending, the Office of Management and Budget director said yesterday.

Peter R. Orszag told the House Budget Committee the $533.7 billion defense budget provides funding to increase Army and Marine Corps end strength, provide servicemembers a 2.9 percent pay raise, improve military housing and other defense facilities and provide better medical treatment for wounded troops.

Meanwhile, the budget will set realistic requirements and incorporate “best practices” to control cost growth and schedule slippage of weapons programs, he said.

Orszag told the committee the White House will leave the details of that plan to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a staunch advocate of acquisition reform.

The budget represents greater growth than the 2.9 percent average following the Cold War, but less than the 7 percent annual growth during the last eight years, Orszag said.

But at 4 percent over the enacted 2009 budget level, excluding funds authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2010 request will be sufficient to maintain a strong Defense Department as it enforces a new acquisition framework, he told the committee.

One source of savings, he said, will be the redeployment of combat brigades from Iraq. Those savings will offset increased costs of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

“Under the president’s budget, as troop levels decrease, the combined cost of Iraq and Afghanistan operations would decrease by about $50 billion in 2009 and $65 billion in 2010,” Orszag said. This compares to the 2008 level of $187 billion, adjusted for inflation.

The president’s 2010 budget request also calls for increasing funding for the Veterans Affairs Department by $25 billion over the next five years, he reported. That request would provide a “dramatic increase” in funding for VA health care and, for the first time since 2003, restore health-care eligibility for non-disabled veterans earning modest incomes.

This initiative will bring more than 500,000 additional veterans into to the VA health-care system by 2013, Orszag said. At the same time, he said, it will maintain high-quality and timely care for lower-income and disabled veterans who already rely on VA medical care.


Budget to Reflect Key Defense Priorities, OMB Director Says