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Defense Swallows 15 Percent of Obama’s Budget Plan

President Barack Obama's $4 trillion budget includes $585 billion to sustain his national security and defense strategies. That's nearly 15 percent of the overall budget, and a request of $25 billion more than last year's enacted defense budget.

Protecting the United States and its interests is an expensive undertaking, to the tune of $534 billion for a defense base budget and an additional $51 billion to cover overseas war funds.

Obama has called on Congress to approve his budget in its entirety.

“This is one of our most basic and most important responsibilities as a government, so I am calling on Congress to get this done,” said Obama.

The political problem is that this $585 billion request is much higher than the $499 billion spending cap Congress set in 2011.

Ryan Crotty, deputy director for Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thinks the 2016 defense budget proposal is meant to correct for a few years of insufficient funding.

“Acting on what I think seems to be a broad consensus in both chambers and the executive that defense spending as it has been in the last couple of years is too low,” said Crotty.

Too low given the current global threat environment. The funding includes more than $5 billion to counter Islamic State operations, through airstrikes and the training of Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian rebels.

It also includes about $800 million for a European Reassurance Initiative, which funds training exercises with allies in Europe amid Russian aggression in Ukraine.

And while the U.S. has completed its combat mission in Afghanistan, there are still billions in the budget to continue the support mission.

“The drawdown, we’re talking about the boots on the ground, is not a linear drawdown for dollars. Even though our troops are inside the wire doing train, advise and assist and helping them build their force, we’re still out there trying to make sure those troops in the garrison are safe,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assesment on the Pentagon's joint staff.

The Navy would receive a lot of the proposed budget increase, with billions of dollars for new ships to help bolster a shift to the Pacific region.

Pentagon officials explain the majority of the budget is for investing in the future.

“We have three years of built-up demand on modernization that we haven’t been able to get to,” said Undersecretary of Defense Bob Work.

“If we don’t do that today, we’re not going to stay ahead of our potential adversaries,” said Ramsay.

In addition to new air and sea equipment, these investments include maintenance on nuclear facilities and advancements in cyber security.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.