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Pentagon Request of $99.7 Sets New Record - More than Vietnam
Bloomberg
By Tony Capaccio
December 15, 2006

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Spending on Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror would reach a record $170 billion in fiscal 2007 under the latest U.S. Defense Department emergency spending request.

The military's request for $99.7 billion more in funding comes on top of the $70 billion that Congress approved in September and is 45 percent higher than the $117 billion in supplemental funding approved last year.

The request, under review at the White House, is in a 17- page, Dec. 7 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. About half the new money -- $48 billion -- would go to the Army, which says its costs have risen sharply as fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan drags on and more equipment is damaged or destroyed.

It reflects an earlier England memo telling the services they could include in the emergency request expenses they considered related to the global war on terror even if not strictly to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congress since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has approved a total of $507 billion for the war on terror, sometimes adding to the military's requests. Still, any new request will be weighed by a new Congress controlled by Democrats who, while vowing to support the troops, have pledged to change the conduct of the war.

Sean Kevelighan, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the defense proposal "is going through the normal process" and declined to elaborate.

Democrats will probably carefully scrutinize any request to ensure that England's memo wasn't an excuse to lard an emergency spending measure with non-essentials, said Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, a defense analysis center.

Bush Reviewing Options

"Democratic lawmakers have said that the era of big, hard- to-explain supplementals should be ending," Thompson said. "This supplemental will probably exacerbate that concern. The Pentagon will have to explain the relevance of every item. That will be a hard case to make."

Polls show Americans' support for the war and President George W. Bush's handling of it at new lows. Bush says he's reviewing options and will announce "a new way forward" in a speech to the nation early next year.

The Pentagon's new request appears to reflect one recommendation from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, as the amount for training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces would almost double to $9.7 billion.

Bush has said that improving the proficiency and numbers of Iraqi forces is crucial to reducing U.S. troop levels. The 10- member Iraq Study Group said it was a matter of urgency, a critical step toward reaching its goal of withdrawing most U.S. combat forces by the first quarter of 2008.

Exceeds Vietnam

The annual cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds that of the Vietnam War at its height. Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. in 1968 spent $121 billion in Vietnam and a total of $631 billion for the duration of the war, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The Iraq Study Group, in the report it released Dec. 6, estimated the cost of the war in Iraq and postwar reconstruction will soar to $2 trillion, about 20 times the Bush administration estimate ahead of the March 2003 invasion.

The new proposal requests $41.5 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, personnel pay and benefits and equipment maintenance. Of the $70 billion in emergency spending Congress approved earlier this year, $49.7 billion was earmarked for these purposes, so total spending for these categories in fiscal 2007 would be $91.2 billion, according to calculations compiled by Amy Belasco, a defense analyst for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

17 Percent Increase

That's an increase of about 17 percent over the $78 billion approved for fiscal 2006 and reflects the expense of keeping 15 of the Army's 37 active brigades plus National Guard and reserves in Iraq longer than expected, as well as equipment costs.

The new request includes $26.6 billion to replace and repair equipment damaged and destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan and would bring spending on that this year to $50 billion -- more than twice what Congress appropriated in fiscal 2006 and more than three times what the Pentagon said it actually spent, Belasco said.

"It's not clear why the Defense Department would need such a large request," she said. "Congress may question some of these procurement requests, arguing that these funds should be included in the regular budget since they support one of the Defense Department's basic missions."

Protective Equipment

The remainder of the new request includes $10 billion for protective equipment for troops and $2.5 billion for technology to defeat improvised bombs, the leading cause of U.S. deaths in Iraq. The Pentagon request in that category is an increase from $500 million in last year's emergency request. Money also will go for intelligence, construction and to support coalition forces.

The request also includes $1.38 billion to buy aircraft and $62 million for ballistic missiles.

Air Force spokeswoman Major Morshe Araujo said the Air Force was requesting the aircraft money to pay for more than 120 aircraft losses since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Many of the losses are the result of combat and increased stress from higher usage, but "we cannot go into details," she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

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