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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 1, 2010

Record military budget proposed by Obama important for Hawaii

Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s $3.8 trillion proposed budget, released Monday, contains $708 billion for defense — a record amount that will have important implications for Hawaii’s military-rich economy.

The overall proposed budget, which would take effect Oct. 1, is 3 percent larger than what the government is spending this year, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
It includes a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon’s base budget and $159 billion to fund the U.S. military missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It contains a 1.4 percent basic pay raise for the military, and an average housing increase of 4.2 percent.
“It should keep salaries roughly in concert with the private sector,” said Robert Hale, comptroller for the Pentagon.
Also for Hawaii in the budget, according to the White House:

  • $785.9 million to provide health coverage to low-income children and families.
  • Tax cuts for 500,000 families.
  • $179.6 million for schools, students and teachers.
  • $294.8 million to fix and expand the state’s network of roads and highways, modernize airports, and expand water and sewer infrastructure.
  • $71.2 million in new funding for Pell Grants to help pay for college.
  • $156.8 million for housing assistance.
    The proposed 2011 defense budget contains increases for programs important for service members, their quality of life and their families:
  • $30.9 billion overall for medical care, an increase of 5.8 percent over the 2010 enacted level. That includes increases in funding for brain injuries and mental health.
  • A 3 percent increase in family support programs, above the 2010 enacted level. That includes a bump for child-care services, life-skills counseling such as handling finances, and career education.
    Monday’s proposed budget coincided with the Pentagon’s release of its congressionally mandated four-year strategy report, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR.
    That plan stresses boots on the ground over expensive weapons systems, but it still pours significant funding into the new F35 fighter and into ship-building, both of which will affect the make-up of the military in Hawaii.
    “We have in a sober and clear way assessed the threats and the priorities,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.
    The budget and the QDR draw together major factors that will play heavily in Hawaii during the coming fiscal year and beyond.
    Perhaps the most important factor in how Hawaii fares in the budget process is the role of Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee. He will play a leading role in how the QDR is implemented through the budget, as well as in the budget negotiations that steer money toward Hawaii and other locales.
    “I look forward to closely reviewing the president’s budget in the coming days,” Inouye said Monday. “The Appropriations Committee has a responsibility to address the immediate challenges facing the American people during these difficult economic times while also recognizing the long-term economic threat posed by the national debt. We must all redouble our efforts to put Americans back to work and begin digging out of the enormous fiscal hole that has resulted from nearly a decade of reckless policies that brought our economy to the brink of collapse.”
    The president’s budget marks the beginning of the long and often tangled congressional appropriations process.
    What finally emerges from Capitol Hill in the fall usually looks quite different than what the president proposes. The president’s spending plan does not contain earmarks, the pet projects that lawmakers insert as they debate and restructure the budget.
    Hawaii’s lawmakers are often among the top recipients of earmarks.
    In the 2010 defense budget alone, Hawaii had $178 million in earmarks, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers for Common Sense.