Perhaps the most interesting part of all this -- especially considering the timing -- is the money bit.
Mr. Gates did not say what the increase would cost over all, but indicated he would ask Congress for money to pay for it in 2011 and 2012. He estimated the cost in the fiscal year that ends in October at “less than a hundred million dollars” and in fiscal 2010 at $1 billion. He said he would absorb the costs in 2009 and 2010 into the existing Pentagon budget.This comes on a day when the Senate is expected to vote on the McCain-Levin Amendment, which would remove $1.75 billion lawmakers inserted into the defense authorization bill to pay for an extra seven F-22s that the Department doesn't want. By stating that the troop increase will occur under the budget already submitted for FY10, the SecDef and the President have taken one more step to emphasize the zero-sum nature of this year's defense spending. Basically they're saying "if we're not going to seek extra money to pay an extra 20K troops, then you can damn sure go without your useless fighter planes." To wit:
The end-strength increase is meant to help fill out units that have taken a hit from high (and increasing) operational tempo in Afghanistan and Iraq, lower personnel deployability numbers (often due to combat wounds and injuries), and an end to the stop-loss policy.
“We will take that money from some place that we think isn’t as high a priority as more soldiers, and taking some additional steps to relieve stress in the force,” Mr. Gates said, then segued into one of his frequent criticisms of Congress for adding money to the Pentagon budget for weapons and programs he did not want.
“This is why, frankly, some of the wheeling and dealing on the Hill of a few hundred million here and a few hundred million there for a pet project here and a pet project there confront us with ever more difficult choices when we’re trying to make trade-offs in terms of how do we help our soldiers out,” Mr. Gates said.