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President asks for more money, fewer Air Force reservists

WASHINGTON -- The president’s proposed defense budget for next year seeks $3.9 billion in funding for Air Force Reserve Command and an end-strength of 74,000 reservists.

The fiscal 2006 request covers the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 2005. It asks for 2,100 fewer Air Force reservists than the 76,100 authorized in fiscal 2005.

Senior Department of Defense officials announced the overall defense budget request of $419.3 billion. The Air Force is to get $127.5 billion.

“This budget represents the latest installment in the president’s strong commitment to transforming this department to face the challenges of the 21st century,” said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a news release Feb. 7. “We continue our transition to a more agile, deployable and lethal force.

“We are a nation at war,” the secretary added. “The president’s budget, together with the supplemental spending proposals the president has made, provides the men and women in uniform what they need to prevail.”

In the president’s budget, the Air Force Reserve requests funding for three separate appropriations -- operation and maintenance, reserve personnel, and military construction.

Most of the AFRC portion of the FY 2006 President’s Budget request -- $2.5 billion -- is for O & M funds to train, organize and administer the command. The Reserve received $2.24 billion in O & M funds in fiscal 2005.

In 2006, another $1.31 billion goes to the reserve personnel appropriation for military personnel participation and training requirements. This funding includes a military pay raise of 3.5 percent, and the addition of 390 full-time Active Guard and Reserve people. The requested reserve personnel appropriation represents a $155.2 million decrease compared to that received for the fiscal 2005 reserve personnel appropriation.

Requested funding for military construction in FY 2006 is $79.3 million. These funds would pay for 14 major projects in eight states. In this fiscal 2005, the Reserve is getting $124 million for military construction, which includes major and minor projects, and planning and design. In his fiscal 2005 budget request, the president had recommended $84.6 million, but Congress added $39.4 million more to fund seven additional projects.

Finally, Congress added another $281 million to help the Reserve in fiscal 2005 -- $40 million in the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation and $241 million in aircraft procurement with the active-duty Air Force.

Congress uses the president’s budget as a blueprint to draft appropriations legislation. After both houses of Congress approve their version of the bill, the two versions go to a joint conference committee to resolve differences in the two bills. After both houses of Congress approve the reconciled version of the bill, it goes to the president to be signed into law.