Today, the Bush Administration requested that Congress provide the Department of Defense with a baseline budget of $515 billion in fiscal 2009 (beginning October 1 of this year). It also requested $21 billion for Department of Energy nuclear-weapons programs, and $70 billion in supplemental funding for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even without additional war-related funding needed to get U.S. forces through the end of 2009, the amount requested today totals $606 billion. If you want to get a clear idea of how much money $606 billion is, remove the effects of inflation and look at how the buying power of the proposed budget compares with past military spending:
— It is over 100% more than the military spent in its first year of fighting World War Two (1942).
— It is over 50% more than the military spent in the last year of the Clinton Administration (2000).
— It is higher than the peak year of military spending for the Korean War (1953).
— It is higher than the peak year of military spending for the Vietnam War (1968).
Many of the details of the proposed military budget were known days (and in some cases months) in advance, thanks to world-class reporting by Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg Business News. Capaccio so consistently beats competitors to such stories that most experts no longer think they need a second source before accepting what he says. A review of what he and others have reported about the last defense budget of the Bush era reveals five over-arching patterns in terms of how the military priorities of this period will be remembered by future historians…
1. The Bush Administration has met the commitment of its first year in office to steadily increase the baseline budgets of the military services. Despite spending over $600 billion on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9-11, the administration has managed to steadily increase funding for other military activities as well.
2. The administration has embraced the need to re-balance outlays among the military services in light of heavy near-term demand on ground forces. The Army’s baseline budget will increase from $112 billion in 2007 to $130 billion in 2008 to $141 billion in 2009, with most of the war-related outlays going to the Army too.
3. Efforts to transform the military into a network-enabled, information-intensive fighting force have begun to falter as key backers depart government service. Key transformation initiatives such as the Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT) program and the Littoral Combat Ship are slashed in the 2009 request.
4. The investment agendas of the military departments are migrating back to more traditional war-fighting systems such as fighters and armored vehicles, suggesting lack of enthusiasm for leap-ahead ideas. Accelerated investment in aircraft like tankers and cargo planes is probably unavoidable given the age of cold war fleets.
5. Missile defense and related efforts such as a new missile-warning satellite remain high priorities for the Bush Administration, as they have been from the beginning. The $11 billion sought for missile defense rivals in size the Navy’s anemic shipbuilding program, and that’s with some elements of missile defense not included.
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