WASHINGTON - Funding for the war in Afghanistan in next year's proposed Pentagon budget for the first time surpasses the outlay for Iraq, demonstrating a shift in priorities that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seeks to execute in defense spending.
The $130 billion in war funds that are part of the fiscal 2010 budget request include $65 billion for Afghanistan and $61 billion for Iraq. For 2009, $87 billion was requested for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan.
The budget covers the deployment of 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year, raising the total to 68,000.
The budget includes $700 million for training and equipment to improve Pakistan's counterinsurgency capability, a major increase in such assistance over the $400 million sought for this year.
The Pentagon's $534 billion base budget is $21 billion, or 4 percent, larger than last year's. It includes initiatives that reflect Gates' plan to reshape the military to better fight today's wars.
Major spending increases include $2 billion on intelligence and reconnaissance; $500 million to field and maintain helicopters; and funds to add 2,400 personnel to Special Operations Forces in 2010 as well as aircraft to support them.
However, budgetary pressure has slowed the growth of defense spending overall, which increased 2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms for 2010, compared with an average of 4 percent from 2001 to 2009.
The 2010 Pentagon budget proposed by Obama eliminates $8.8 billion in weapons programs that were in the 2009 budget.
It would halt the F-22 fighter jet after 187 are manufactured. Other major cuts include ending the $13 billion presidential helicopter program, which has more than doubled in cost.
Under pressure from Congress to develop ways to measure progress in Afghanistan, officials have said the administration is readying benchmarks to gauge security, governance, and economic development there.
The effort comes as lawmakers warn that Congress may try to condition budget approval for the Afghanistan war on whether improvements are being made on a number of fronts.
Also yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that includes funding of the wars for the remainder of this fiscal year. That is $96.7 billion for military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, nearly $12 billion more than Obama sought.
Closing the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, dominated the committee debate over the bill, as Republicans warned that the Obama administration was preparing to release dangerous killers into American neighborhoods and Democrats accused the GOP of fearmongering.
Ultimately, Republican attempts to prevent the Guantanamo facility from being closed were defeated along party lines in the committee.
The Senate acted yesterday to revamp Pentagon purchasing practices that have led to billions of dollars in cost overruns and delays in getting weapons to U.S. forces at war.
The 93-0 Senate vote on the acquisitions-overhaul legislation came as the House Armed Services Committee moved to approve similar legislation.