So it was with interest that I joined the The DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable to meet with Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale to discuss the 2011 Military Budget as proposed by the President to Congress. Mr. Hale did a terrific job responding to queries and fully explaining the budget. I appreciate the time he took to talk to the Roundtable during a very busy time for him.
Secretary Hale highlighted the budget as a reform budget:
“This budget provides the resources to sustain a military at war. It takes care of our people, rebalances military capabilities, reforms what and how we buy, and supports our troops in the field”. (DoD slide)
I plan to write a couple of blogs about the proposed budget and today I will start with people programs which according to Secretary Hale is the number one priority. The military budget key themes include Taking Care of People as number one! As number one priority the budget includes specific programs for you! Let’s start with a pay raise that matches the rate of inflation (1.4%) but expands BAH (housing) by 4.2%! Secretary Hale, when I queried him about a housing budget reduction explained that the privatization of housing is a success story with 97% of US military housing privatized (200,000 units). With the increases in rent for on installation housing the contractors will be able to maintain the appearance and standards which we all want!
The medical story is a great one for this budget too, with additional funding for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome (PTSD) and other wounded warrior type programs to be $1.1 Billion! The proposed budget according to DoD fully funds the Defense Health Program with no increase in Tricare costs for beneficiaries! The development of Virtual Lifetime Electronic Records and Electronic Health Record systems are included to make it easier for transfer and maintenance of records. It will also include connectivity and closer ties with the VA! As a veteran who has gone through and continues to discuss issues with the Veterans Administration this could be a big step! The budget for the 9.5 million faces involved in the DoD health system is $30.9 Billion and would be a 5.8% increase over 2010!
Other family support programs mentioned in the discussion include Spousal/Community Support, Counseling, Child Care and the replacement/renovation of 103 DoD schools! There is $.5 Billion dollars tagged for schools! In addition, funding is included for the normalization of tours in Korea including housing, medical and other costs which I had written about earlier following a Roundtable with General Sharp, the Commander in Korea.
The proposed budget is 4.79% of our gross domestic product ($708 Billion) which includes the Overseas Contingency Operations (Afghanistan and Iraq). Without the OCO costs the percentage of GDP would be 3.5%. The numbers are staggering but what they support is the security of our country and the men and women and their families who defend it. Did you know that during WWII the defense budget was 34.5% of GDP and during the Korean War it was at 11.7%? We are fighting in two wars and in other hot spots and it is at 4.79%! I will remember those stats when I hear negative comments from the media etc.
I will follow up with additional themes of the military budget during future blogs including supporting our troops in the field, rebalancing the military, current wars, reforming what and how we buy. One important point to note about this budget proposal: Remember those family budget discussions I mentioned at the beginning? We just sat down at the table with some coffee. The discussions have just started and they can make changes happen. The budget will start on October 1st if Congress passes it and the President signs it. If you would like to see more information on the military budget process, please go to MilitaryAvenue articles discussing the military budget.
If you would like to listen to an audio of the Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive! Thank you Lt Cragg and the staff at the New Media Directorate of the Pentagon's Public Affairs office for making the Roundtable possible!
Photo Credit: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief the press regarding the 2011 budget request at the Pentagon, Feb. 1, 2010. Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of