President Bush's 2008 budget request includes $624.6 billion in defense spending and marks the first time he has offered an estimate of how much the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost a year in advance.
On top of $93.4 billion in additional money for this year's war operations and $141.7 billion in projected war costs for next year, the administration is seeking $481.4 billion to run the Defense Department in the budget year beginning Oct. 1. That is an 11.3 percent increase over the $432 billion approved by Congress for this year. Also in the request for department spending is a little less than $2 billion for benefit programs.
For the first time, the Pentagon figures include what Bush wants to spend to fight the Iraq war, money that in past years was put in supplemental appropriations rather than the regular budget.
The Pentagon said the $141.7 billion in anticipated war costs for 2008 include not only the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan but also the cost of repairing, replacing or replenishing equipment lost in combat by both the active-duty military as well as the National Guard and Reserve.
Though the proposed 2008 figure is less than the $170 billion being spent in 2007 on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that fact shouldn't be interpreted as an indication of likely reduction in U.S. troops in Iraq.
"We're not saying that the number for '08 is the final number," Fratto said. "We don't know that right now." He said it is "very, very difficult to project costs in future years."
The budget request, expected to undergo close scrutiny by a Democratic-controlled Congress that has grown increasingly opposed to Bush's Iraq war policy, includes no cancellations of major weapons programs.
Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the proposed war costs "staggering."
"We cannot provide an adequate national defense on the cheap, but neither can we afford to simply ratify the president's request without performing the due diligence and oversight our Constitution requires," Skelton said.
The budget would provide a 3 percent pay raise for members of the military. In a statement released with the budget request, the Pentagon said military pay has increased by 32 percent since 2001, when the war on terror began.
Among the services, the Army would get $130.1 billion, a 20 percent increase over this year. The Air Force would get an 8 percent increase, to $136.6 billion; the Navy's budget would rise by 9 percent, to $119.3 billion, and the Marine Corps would rise 4.3 percent, to $20.5 billion.
Steven Kosiak, an analyst with the private Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the president's proposed increases bring the Defense Department budget back up to where it was during the 1980s, a peak period for Pentagon spending, when calculated in today's dollars.
"An 11.3 percent increase is the kind of increase we had right after 9/11 and in the four or five years of the (President) Reagan buildup," Kosiak said. "So by historical perspectives, it's a pretty big jump."