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MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., April 15, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met here today with students from the Air War College to spell out his thinking behind his proposed fiscal 2010 Defense Department budget.

This is the second stop for Gates this week, as he plans to visit all of the services’ war colleges.

Gates told the group that warfighter care was at the center of his budget considerations, which led to his shift of many programs from supplemental funding into the base budget.

“Fundamentally, the proposals are about how we think about the nature of warfare, about how we take care of our people, and about how we institutionalize support for the warfighter for the long term,” Gates said.

The secretary said his budget recommendations are a reflection of his past two years in office, during which he has struggled to get equipment to troops in combat, and proper care when they return home.

“I kept running into the fact that the Department of Defense as an institution … was itself not on war footing, even as young Americans were fighting and dying every day,” he said.

Gates said the Defense Department needs to balance its needs to plan for the next war while caring for troops and families now.

More coverage to come.

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