After Inflation:

If approved as submitted to the Congress earlier this month, the Air Force’s Fiscal 2009 budget plan would reflect growth in real terms of 4.6 percent over this fiscal year, Air Force spokeswoman Vicki Stein, tells the Daily Report. That number jumps slightly to 5.6 percent, if factoring only those “blue” activities of the budget that fall under USAF’s managerial control, she says. This compares to DOD’s $515.4 billion request for next fiscal year, which represents a 5.5 percent increase after inflation, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters in the Pentagon earlier this month. The Air Force did not have its numbers broken down in these terms at the time of the release of its 2009 spending proposal on Feb. 4. However, per our request, it crunched the numbers. To understand USAF’s budget, one must differentiate the blue accounts from non-blue activities. The latter are essentially joint-service programs like defense health services and intelligence and special operations activities that fall under each service’s budget, even though the individual services do not control how those monies are spent. The Air Force’s total baseline budget request for Fiscal 2009—including both the blue and non-blue—is $143.9 billion, up $9.3 billion from the $134.6 billion enacted for this fiscal year. This represents a nominal increase of 6.9 percent, but slips to 4.6 percent after applying DOD’s “standard inflation indices,” Stein says. The blue portion of the Air Force’s spending proposal is $117 billion, up $8.6 billion from Fiscal 2008’s $108.4 billion mark. This represents an eight percent nominal increase, but falls to 5.6 percent after inflation, Stein says. While Air Force officials have said they welcome the increase, factors like rising fuel costs, utilities increases, and greater costs of doing business, in general, eat up a good portion of it. So it is not accurate to view the increase solely as a windfall, they said.