WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a 2010 Pentagon budget Monday that reflects major changes in the "scope and significance" of Defense Department priorities.
Three key priorities are reflected in the changes, Gates said.
The priorities include a stronger institutional commitment to the military's all-volunteer force, a decision to "rebalance" defense programs to better fight current and future conflicts, and "fundamental overhauls" of the military's procurement, acquisition, and contracting process.
As part of a broad ranging review of the military's changing air power needs, Gates called for production of the Air Force's most expensive fighter - the F-22 "Raptor" - to be phased out by fiscal year 2011.
He also called for terminating a proposed new fleet of 23 new presidential helicopters estimated to cost over $13 billion. The proposed fleet, he noted, was originally projected to cost $6.5 billion. It "has fallen six years behind schedule, and runs the risk of not delivering the requested capability," he said.
Gates maintained that a new fleet of presidential helicopters will ultimately still be necessary, however.
At the same time, he said he did not want to pursue a development program for a new Air Force bomber "until we have a better understanding of the need, the requirement, and the technology."
Gates did, however, request 50 Predator and Reaper-class unmanned aerial vehicles by fiscal year 2011 - translating to a 62 percent increase in capability over the current level, and 127 percent from a year ago.
The Predator has been used extensively by the military in operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
Turning to the military's overall troop levels, Gates proposed spending an additional $11 billion to complete a planned expansion of the Army and Marine Corps, while halting reductions in the Air Force and Navy.
A planned 547,000 troop-level increase, while capping the growth of Army brigade combat teams at 45 as opposed to a previously-discussed level of 48, will be sufficient to "ensure that we have better manned units ready to employ and help put an end to the routine use of stop-loss," Gates maintained.
"This step will also lower the risk of hollowing the force," he said.
Gates also proposed a reduction in the use of support service contractors from 39 percent of the Pentagon workforce to a pre-2001 level of 26 percent.
The contractors, Gates added, would be replaced with full-time government employees.
To help create a more mobile, flexible force, Gates proposed boosting special operations personnel by 2,800, or 5 percent, as well as purchasing aircraft designed to provide greater lift mobility and rapid transportation of those forces.
Among other things, he cited a proposed increase in the purchase of "littoral combat ships, a key capability for presence, stability, and counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions" from two to three ships.
The Pentagon's ultimate goal, he said, is to acquire 55 of these ships.
He also called for an additional $500 million "to increase our capacity to field and sustain more helicopters, a capability that is in urgent demand in Afghanistan."
Another $500 million is directed toward boosting "global partnership capacity efforts" through enhanced initiatives for "training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism and stability operations."
The proposed overall fiscal year 2010 Defense Department budget is almost $534 billion, or nearly $664 billion including the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current Pentagon budget totals slightly over $513 billion, or almost $655 billion including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
"This is a reform budget, reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan ... (But) there's no question that a lot of these decisions will be controversial," Gates said.
He called on Congress to "rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole."
Gates is already showing he is a better leader under Obama than under Cheney. I can't wait until he writes a book about it.
I can hardly wait for the Republicans to through their former best friend under the bus!!
First of all.... "The priorities include a stronger institutional commitment to the military's all-volunteer force"
When you deliberately construct an illegal war which creates a terrible economy that makes high school kids think they have no option BUT to enlist, is not "all-volunteer".
Secondly..."and "fundamental overhauls" of the military's procurement, acquisition, and contracting process. "
I'm assuming this just means that contracts can go to anyone now, and not just KBR and the Carlyle Group.
Good.This will hurt hot shot Texas republicans who are in the pockets of big oil and the war machine that thrives there.