Nov. 7, 2006 by George Cahlink
The Pentagon is preparing a fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental request to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that would eclipse any such request to date � at a time when many lawmakers and voters would prefer to see the U.S. commitment in Iraq diminishing.
Industry and defense experts confirmed that the military services have sent a $160 billion request to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for review. The spending request likely will be sent to Congress in early February, along with the fiscal 2008 defense budget proposal.
Coupled with $70 billion in emergency money already in the fiscal 2007 Defense spending measure (PL 109-289), the military would spend about $230 billion on the war in that fiscal year. To date, the United States has spent about $507 billion on the wars in and Afghanistan.
"This really is an enormous supplemental. This is clearly beyond increased costs for fighting the war," said Steve Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Kosiak said a $160 billion request would top any annual emergency spending bill approved by Congress during the Vietnam War, when far more troops were deployed in Southeast Asia.
"Its quiet clear that nobody is saying no to anybody on defense budgets," said Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional staffer who now works for the Center for Defense Information.
Sources said the Army has sought $80 billion, the Air Force $50 billion, and the Navy and Marine Corps $30 billion. Those sources cautioned they were only preliminary proposals that Rumsfeld could scale back.
The Defense secretary and other senior Pentagon leaders will make a decision on the supplemental by Nov. 15. It then would be sent to the Office of Management and Budget for further review.
In an Oct. 25 memorandum that expanded the emergency spending to costs associated with the global war on terrorism, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England encouraged the services to seek large supplemental requests. In the past, the Pentagon has used supplementals only to seek money for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Estimates are to include incremental costs related to the longer war against terror," England wrote, specifically saying those costs could include repairing and replacing equipment as well as changing force structures.
Clark Murdock, a defense expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Congress might back $160 billion. He noted the Army and Marine Corps face huge bills for replacing equipment.
He did, however, question the Air Force�s request for $50 billion. "Nobody has been shooting up Air Force fighters," he noted.
One defense industry lawyer said he expected the final request to come in closer to $120 billion.
Source: CQ Today. Reprinted with permission. This article was originally published in CQ Today on November 7, 2006.
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