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Administration might seek $110 billion more for Iraq, Afghanistan
GovExec.com/National Journal Group Inc
By Peter Cohn, CongressDaily
July 12, 2006

The White House might ask Congress for another $110 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year, according to the Bush administration's annual "mid-session" budget review released Tuesday.

That includes a fiscal 2007 supplemental request in the $60 billion range, followed by another $50 billion "bridge fund" as part of the regular fiscal 2008 budget to fund military operations through the first part of that fiscal year.

While only a rough estimate of anticipated war-related spending, it tracks with funding levels appropriated during the last few fiscal years. It would boost military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to about $560 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with associated foreign aid pushing that figure closer to $600 billion.

The additional war spending also helps account for a sharply higher $339 billion deficit projected for next year, along with lower growth in expected tax revenue. That contrasts with the revenue-fueled $296 billion fiscal 2006 deficit estimate the Bush administration announced Tuesday. That is a slight improvement over last year and a sharp reduction from earlier White House estimates of this fiscal year's deficit.

Earlier this year as part of its fiscal 2007 budget submission, the administration for the first time included an allowance for an initial $50 billion installment to pay for the wars. But inclusion of future anticipated war costs in preliminary budget estimates is unprecedented for the Bush administration, and is the result of prodding by senior Republicans like Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman told reporters that while forecasting future war costs is difficult, "experience does allow us to project with modest confidence approximate amounts."

Including the fiscal 2006 supplemental and fiscal 2007 bridge fund, for example, Congress during the current fiscal year will have enacted about $116 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is the first time we've projected these costs this far in advance, and looking this far ahead, I will tell you, is very difficult. There's a lot of uncertainty involved in it," Portman said. "But we do believe that the approach we've taken today in the mid-session review strikes the right balance of reasonably anticipating costs without making unreasonable guesses."

But Tuesday's budget presentation does not present the full picture, Democrats said. They said based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan could run as high as $371 billion over the next decade. And even that figure leaves out additional anticipated costs to repair and replace worn-out equipment for the Army and Marine Corps, according to an analysis by House Budget Committee Democrats.

Nor, they said, does it factor in politically necessary but costly actions such as preventing the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of middle-class taxpayers or blocking a scheduled cut in Medicare physician payments.

"Anyone celebrating today's deficit announcement is missing the bigger picture," said Senate Budget ranking member Kent Conrad, D-N.D. He said Bush's calls to rein in entitlement spending to further trim the deficit were little more than an excuse to "shred Social Security and Medicare."

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