W.H. Asks for $1B to Add to Army

Defense Sec. Gates moves to reduce strain on military

The White House formally asked Congress late Thursday to shift at least $1 billion within next year's defense budget to expand the Army's active duty forces by another 15,000 troops in 2010.

This would be the first installment toward Defense Secretary Robert Gates decision last month to seek 22,000 more active Army troops over the next few years to relieve the strain of continued deployments overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The increase — which the Pentagon insists is only temporary — follows on already approved steps by Gates to permanently increase Army manpower by 65,000 and add another 27,000 Marines.

With the added 15,000 troops, the Army's active end strength will rise from 547,400 to 562,400, but to cover the cost, about $1.013 billion, the White House is also proposing cuts from chiefly procurement accounts.

The Army would lose about $700.6 million from prior requests for such items as Humvee and truck purchases. Navy and Marine Corps procurement would be cut by $156 million, and an equal sum would come from Air Force aircraft procurement programs, including the C-130 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) modifications.

Some of these choices could prove ticklish politically, since the House has already approved its defense bill for the coming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But the larger goal of adding manpower has broad support given the evident strain on the military.

"This increase will allow military commanders to reduce the strain on the force and increase time at home between deployments," President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Cal.). "Eight years of sustained combat operations have weighed heavily on our soldiers and their families."

"Expanding the Army to 562,400 troops in 2010 will reduce stress and strain on soldiers and families. It will increase the number of troops available to deploy while also helping the Army to end the practice of retaining soldiers beyond their period of obligated service."

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