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Military may ask $127B for wars
USA Today
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
November 16, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is preparing its largest spending request yet for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a proposal that could make the conflict the most expensive since World War II.

The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year, which began last month, several lawmakers and congressional staff members said. That's on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007.

Since 2001, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror, roughly two-thirds for Iraq. The latest request, due to reach the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress next spring, would make the war on terror more expensive than the Vietnam War.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who will chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, said the amount under consideration is "$127 billion and rising." He said the cost "is going to increasingly become an issue" because it could prevent Congress from addressing domestic priorities, such as expanding Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who put the expected request at $160 billion, said such a sizable increase still "won't solve the problem" in Iraq.

Bill Hoagland, a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans, said: "At a minimum, they were looking at $130 (billion). If it goes higher than that, I'm not surprised."

The new request being considered for the war on terror would be about one-fourth what the government spends annually on Social Security — and 10 times what it spends on its space program.

The White House called the figures premature. "They don't reflect a decision by the administration," said budget office spokeswoman Christin Baker. "It is much too early in the process to make that determination."

Before the Iraq war began in 2003, the Bush administration estimated its cost at $50 billion to $60 billion, though White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey had suggested in 2002 that it could cost as much as $200 billion.

Growing opposition to the war contributed to Democrats' takeover of the House and Senate in this month's elections. Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, an early critic of the war who lost his bid Thursday to be the House Democratic leader, vowed to use his clout as chairman of the House panel that reviews the Pentagon budget "to get these troops out of Iraq and get back on track and quit spending $8 billion a month."

"The war's been an extraordinarily expensive undertaking, both in lives and in dollars," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

The new request is top-heavy with Army and Air Force costs to replace and repair equipment and redeploy troops, Hoagland said. That's why the 2007 cost is likely to top the war's average annual price tag.

Overall, he said, "we're easily headed toward $600 billion." That would top the $536 billion cost of Vietnam in today's dollars. World War II cost an inflation-adjusted $3.6 trillion.

Leon Panetta, President Clinton's former chief of staff and a member of a bipartisan panel studying recommendations on Iraq for President Bush, said the Pentagon needs $50 billion to $60 billion to "restore the units that are being brought back here, to re-equip them and get them back to a combat-readiness status.

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