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American Forces Press Service

Gates Says Cost of Defending Nation High, but Worth It

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2007 – The president’s fiscal 2008 defense budget request may be high, but the expenditure is necessary, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee today.

“The costs of defending the nation are high,” Gates said in testimony before the committee. “The only thing costlier, ultimately, would be to fail to commit the resources necessary to defend our interests around the world and to fail to prepare for the inevitable threats of the future.”

Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace testified on the president’s fiscal 2008 defense budget request and the fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental request. The 2008 request is for $481.4 billion, and the supplemental 2007 request is for $93.4 billion. The president also requested $141.7 billion for operational costs.

The defense budget requests make the strategic investments necessary to modernize and recapitalize military capabilities, Gates said.

He also said the two requests will reduce stress on the military and help sustain the all-volunteer force. Servicemembers’ needs are reflected in the significant money dedicated to quality-of-life improvements, Gates said.

One large aspect of the budget request will increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. Conditions in the world mandate that increase, Gates said.

“I think that we need the full range of military capabilities,” Pace said. “We need both the ability for regular force-on-force conflicts because we don't know what's going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere.

He said the military also needs more special operations forces. “An increase in the Special Forces is provided for in this budget to deal with situations such as we're encountering in Afghanistan and … the Philippines and various other places around the world.”

The increase in the number of troops and the number of units will give troops the time at home station they need to recuperate and train up for the next deployment, Gates said.

American forces are stationed around the world. Those requirements do not end simply because there is a war in Iraq or Afghanistan, he added. “One of the results of that plus the war in Iraq is that our active force is now down to a year at home and then a year deployed,” Gates said. “In fact, our policy is that it be a year deployed and two years at home. Same way with the Guard -- … a year deployed and five years (at home). Because the forces are stretched so thinly in a variety of places, … especially Iraq, we've had to break that commitment.”

Pace agreed that ground forces needed to increase. He also said that the budget needs to address equipment and training.

About 40 percent of U.S. forces’ equipment is either in a combat zone or being repaired, he said. Units stationed in the United States have less than a full complement of equipment, Pace said.

Units that should train on up-armored Humvees cannot because all of those vehicles are deployed, the chairman said. Units make do and have ‘workarounds’ to make up for shortfalls in equipment, he said. Money in the 2008 request and the 2007 supplemental will address equipment shortfalls for units worldwide, the said.

Training is another consideration in forming the budget and increasing the size of the force. “With one year out and one year back, during the time that they're back, after they take a little bit of leave and get to know their family, the troops are being retrained for the mission to go back into Iraq or Afghanistan,” Pace said.

“Instead of having the two years at home that we'd like them to have and have that time available to train to both the mission they're going to go to but also the unexpected missions of combined arms operations and the like, we are not able to train them fully to the missions that they may have to go to in addition to being able to train them for the mission they're going to,” he continued.

The Army and Marine Corps are slated to grow by 92,000 troops through fiscal 2012. The change will enable the Army to field 48 brigade combat teams up from 42, and the Marines to fill out a third Marine expeditionary force.

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