WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army, which has borne much of the weight of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would get $130 billion under President Bush's 2008 budget — a sizable increase that would help ease the strain and meet equipment needs.
The proposal represents a 16 percent hike over this year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. When coupled with additional tens of billions of dollars in emergency war funding, it "should go a long ways toward making the Army better," said Steven Kosiak, an analyst with the private Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Officials would not comment publicly on the budget request because it will not be officially released until Monday.
While the number falls short of the Army's request, it suggests that arguments made by senior Army leaders were heeded by the Bush administration. Initial White House budget plans called for giving the Army $114 billion, which increased to $121 billion by October.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, had said he needed $138 billion for 2008 to replace and repair equipment used in Iraq, cover other war costs and meet day-to-day expenses.
The Iraq war, which began nearly four years ago, has already exceeded the length of U.S. involvement in World War II. A recent report by a special commission on war policy warned that "U.S. military forces, especially our ground forces, have been stretched nearly to the breaking point."
The report said new attention — and billions of dollars — must be devoted to restoring the capabilities of the military so it is ready for future conflicts.
The $130 billion includes more than $46 billion for personnel, an 8 percent increase over this year, and nearly $24 billion to buy weapons and other equipment, a 42 percent hike.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month recommended boosting the Army's troop strength to 547,000 from its current 508,000 over the next five years, and increasing the number of Marines by 27,000 to 202,000.
With the military facing more costs for hiring recruiters, marketing and paying bonuses, the overall Pentagon budget earmarks about $12 billion to help increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
The administration will also seek additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in two separate requests — one for $93.4 billion to cover the remainder of the 2007 budget year, and one for $141.7 billion to cover projected war costs for 2008.
Because it bears the brunt of the fighting, Kosiak said the Army has been getting as much as 60 percent of the emergency war funds.