US President Bush has signed the fiscal 2009 defence budget into law, authorising a $512bn budget to support overall military readiness, as well as $66bn for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The budget re-emphasises Bush’s commitments to the war on terror and also provides support for increasing ground combat capabilities, improving force readiness, developing future combat capabilities and it also provides for improving the quality of life for service members and their families.

Defense Secretary Robert M Gates said that the budget supports US military objectives.

“The budget provides the resources necessary to maintain an agile, highly trained and lethal fighting force, increase Army and Marine Corps end strength and sustain the United States’ technological advantage over current and potential enemies,” he said.

The 2009 budget provides over $20bn to grow the force, including funding for 547,000 new active Army and 202,000 new Marine Corps. It also includes continued funding for the Army’s transformation from a division-centric force to a more flexible modular force with increased mobility and combat power.

The budget will also strengthen the National Guard and reserves, providing $49bn to recruit, train, equip and sustain units for military capabilities at home and abroad.

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The budget also provides $17.3bn to modernise tactical fleets and develop and procure fighter aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Also prioritised are quality-of-life issues. In addition to a pay raise of 3.9%, the law provides more than $41bn for the military health system. It also bars some participants in the military’s healthcare network from raising their fees.

By Daniel Garrun