This promise sounds a lot more impressive than it is.
You might think from reading it that Obama plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops. No. In reality, the Army and Marine Corps are two years into a program to increase their ranks by those numbers by the end of 2010. Both branches are already nearly there.
On Feb. 26, Obama unveiled a proposed 2010 budget that calls for $533.7 billion for the Defense Department, a 4 percent increase from 2009. That's enough, the administration said, to meet the military"s goal to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
Obama hammered home that point the following day in his address at the Marines' Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to announce his strategy and timetables to end the war in Iraq.
"You and your families have done your duty — now a grateful nation must do ours," Obama said. "That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving."
Now to the fine print.
According to the report from the Office of Management and Budget that outlines Obama's spending plan, "While the best technology and up-to-date equipment are important to maintaining the predominance of our military, our armed forces ultimately rely on the commitment and skill of the men and women who wear its uniform. Recognizing this, the budget supports additional permanent forces in the Army and Marine Corps, which will increase to 547,400 and 202,000, respectively, by the end of 2010. This growth is two years ahead of schedule and will reduce stress on service members and their families, while providing heightened readiness for a full spectrum of military operations anywhere in the world."
As of Feb. 3, 2009, the active ranks of the Army were at 542,600, said Lt. Col. Lee Packnett, an Army spokesman. In other words, 4,800 short of the goal to add 65,000 by the end of 2010.
"We're on track," Packnett said. In fact, he said, "we're a year ahead of schedule."
As for the Marines, they are even closer to their goal. As of Jan. 31, there were 200,979 Marines, said Maj. Carl Redding, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps. The Marines expect to grow their ranks the additional 1,000 members and reach their target this summer, a year and half ahead of schedule.
"The biggest thing is that there is funding money to support that (higher troop level)," Redding said.
We think Obama's words to the Marines are a bit misleading. He's not so much going to increase the number of soldiers as he is committing to funding increased troop levels that have already nearly been realized. But if you read the wording of Obama's promise carefully, he says he "supports plans" to increase troop levels. And it appears the proposed budget will. It's still way too early in the budget process to know if Congress will ultimately support his request. But the fact is, Obama has put more money into his proposed defense budget to fund higher troop levels, enough to support the levels he talked about in his promise, and so we'll move this one to In the Works.