Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made public this week additional details of the department's FY2010 budget priorities.
Gates said his recommendations in the new budget are aimed at three principal objectives - first, "to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force;" second, to rebalance the Pentagon's programs to be able to fight the type of wars and scenarios faced today and expected in the future; and third, to overhaul procurement, acquisition, and contracting.
While some programs could see growth, Gates recommended that several major weapon systems get the "ax" -- ending future F-22 and C-17 production, retiring 250 of the oldest Air Force fighters, terminating controversial over-budget helicopter programs, and scaling back on missile defense and Navy ship procurement.
On the people side, Gates said he built the budget to support troops and their families through funding for:
• Manpower increases for the Army and Marine Corps while halting force reductions for the Air Force and Navy
• Medical research and development
• Traumatic brain injury and psychological health programs in direct support of wounded servicemembers
• Child care, spousal support, lodging, and education
The budget also proposes large, phased cutbacks in the number of support contractors (currently 39% of the workforce) and replacing them with up to 30,000 full-time civil servants over the next five years. In particular, the plan is to increase the size of the defense acquisition workforce, converting 11,000 contractors and hiring an additional 9,000 government acquisition professionals by 2015.
On the health care side, Gates acknowledged that past Pentagon proposals to raise retiree TRICARE fees have been rejected by Congress. He said the new budget will "fully fund" military health care programs, but he will still ask Congress to make fee adjustments.
It was unclear as this article was being written whether the budget would include any proposed fee increases or whether those recommendations would be sent to Congress separately.