The Obama administration on Monday requested Congressional approval for a record $708 billion in military spending for fiscal year 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stressed the need for the Pentagon to prepare for a broader range of approaching security challenges while continuing to fund two ongoing wars and also expanding operations in Yemen and Somalia, where al-Qaeda influence is growing. The Pentagon says the proposed military budget reflects a shift away from Cold War-era spending priorities. Changes include further expansion of Special Operations units and a greater focus on cyber security.
The budget request includes $549 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $159 billion for the cost of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Travis Sharp (Vision Meets Reality: 2010 QDR and 2011 Defense Budget, Center for a New American Security, 1 February 2010), the $708 billion total represents a 1.6 percent nominal and 0.2 percent real (inflation-adjusted) increase over the fiscal year 2010 budget of $697 billion (assuming a $33-billion supplement to the 2010 budget that the Obama administration is also requesting is passed).
The 2011 budget request is 13 percent higher in inflation-adjusted terms than the Pentagon’s Korean War peak budget ($624 billion), 33 percent higher than its Vietnam War peak budget ($534 billion), and 23 percent higher than its 1980s peak budget ($574 billion).
The planned expansion of Special Operations funding will include increasing the number of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Predator and Reaper drones, adding up to 2,800 more “irregular warfare” troops, and enhancing intelligence operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
The budget also highlights cyberspace as a new potential zone of conflict, on par with the land, sea, air, and space environments. The Pentagon is building a team of computer experts to operate in cyberspace and protect the U.S. military’s computer networks.
U.S. Department of Defense photo 100201-N-0696M-121