NPR logo Budget Analysis By Issue: Defense & War

Budget Analysis By Issue: Defense & War

The Pentagon is asking for a record $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, including war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Department wants to spend billions on helicopters, drone aircraft and Special Operations units — all in high demand in Afghanistan.

Aside from war costs, the request represents a 3.4 percent increase in the Defense Department's base budget, which pays for things like ballistic missile defense, care of wounded troops and ongoing weapons programs. Unlike last year, this year's budget calls for no sweeping cuts to big weapons systems.

Analysis: For decades, the military has believed it needs to be prepared to fight two large-scale wars simultaneously. But this year's budget underscores the Pentagon's new focus on irregular, guerilla warfare. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he increasingly sees a future dominated by "hybrid" wars. As Gates has put it, U.S. troops will be facing "at the same time an insurgent with an AK-47 and his supporting element with a highly sophisticated ballistic missile." So, this defense spending request is focused on paying for the weapons and personnel needed to prevail in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere, in the broader war on terror.