WASHINGTON, (AP) -The Army would get a sizable increase under President Bush’s 2008 budget that would help ease the strain from the demands of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and meet equipment needs.
The proposal to give the service $130 billion would represent a 16 percent increase over this year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. When coupled with additional tens of billions of dollars in emergency war money, 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 released until Monday.
While the total would fall short of the Army’s request, it suggests that the White House heeded arguments made by Army leaders. 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 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. forces, “especially our ground forces, have been stretched nearly to the breaking point.”
The report urged more attention — and billions of dollars — to restoring the capabilities of the military so it is ready for future conflicts.
The $130 billion would include more than $46 billion for personnel, an 8 percent increase, and nearly $24 billion to buy weapons and other equipment, 42 percent more than this year.
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 sets aside about $12 billion to help increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
The Bush administration will also plans to seek additional dollars 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 money.