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Criticism Of Obama's Defense Budget Mounts

Unfortunately for any administration there will always be criticism and complaint about the budget they submit. This is especially true for an incoming one trying to put its stamp on military strategy and priorities. In the United States defense strategy's most public face is what is purchased. Today the new administration released details on the full FY10 request for the Defense Department. All three services have information at their respective sites: Army, Navy and Air Force.

Obama in some ways tried to mute the expected criticism by carrying over Bush's last Defense Secretary, Robert Gates. Criticism that would be magnified by the fact that he is a Democratic President following a Republican one. Historically there is the understanding that the last two Democrats, Carter and Clinton, were weak on defense spending and preparedness. This meant that no matter what Obama did he would face criticism from the right.

There is also the issue that cutting any program will lead to complaints and demands from the companies or local Congressmen and Senators. Obama magnified his problem of weak on defense spending with ending several major acquisition programs. These, while not necessarily the biggest part of the budget, provide the quickest way to free up largest amount of money. Because of this he is getting bipartisan sniping. The VH-71 Presidential Transport Helicopter is a prime example. It is being assembled and equipped in upstate New York. The mainly Democratic Congressmen from the area want the program to continue. The economic effects of ending the program are harsh enough while there remains a requirement for a new system to perform this mission.

Obama also faces attacks over the change in strategy. He wants to focus on and fund heavily the fighting in Afghanistan and terrorism related "Overseas Contingency Operations". This means that some of the advance technology upgrades to the conventional military have to be deferred. The Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) vehicle program was one such cut. This has led to statements from opponents that ultimately the U.S. military and its members will suffer due to this change in priorities.

Ultimately these budget and strategy questions will be decided in Congress as the funding bills move through the system. What will most likely happen is that some of what Obama wants will happen, while some of what opponents desire will also happen. This kind of compromise makes its hard to restructure the budget and really reduce it if necessary. This is not just true of the Defense budget, but for all aspects of Federal spending.


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