WASHINGTON– President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2010 budget gives the Defense Department nearly $664 billion, an amount Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he’s confident will be enough to sustain the department’s programs. “I’m confident that this funding level will allow the department to meet its long-term institutional priorities of taking care of the troops and their families, rebalancing our capabilities for conventional and irregular warfare, completing the growth of the Army and Marine Corps and preserving essential modernization programs,” Gates told Pentagon reporters at a news conference here today.

The $534 base operating budget for fiscal 2010 represents a 4 percent, or $20 billion, increase from the previous fiscal year, while $130 billion is the Pentagon’s “best estimate” fixed for war costs, he said.

Gates added that the $75.5 billion left from the fiscal 2009 war cost is enough for the Pentagon to continue supporting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through the year.

The top-line budget figure already is being analyzed to determine next year’s spending details, Gates said. The process includes efforts to realize cost efficiencies, reassess all weapons programs, and rebalance investments between current and future capabilities.

Gates didn’t address specific programs, but said he recognizes the rising personnel costs, which consume the majority of the department’s budget. The percentage of the defense budget that goes to health care is increasing at what he called “almost an alarming rate in terms of the future.”

“We will be making tough choices to ensure that this department’s budget priorities best position our military to deal with the most pressing threats and security challenges facing America today and tomorrow,” he said.

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