Friday, February 03, 2006

Another $120B Sought For Wars

Rebuilding is extra; more requests likely
By Richard Wolf
USA Today
February 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will ask Congress soon for another $120 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing total spending since the Sept. 11 attacks to about $440 billion.

Administration officials said the request is intended to fund operations into next year. However, deputy budget director Joel Kaplan and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged that won't be enough, even as the U.S. military tries to turn more responsibility over to Iraqi forces.

Training and equipping Iraqi forces will allow U.S. troops to “take more of a supporting role, a training role, and eventually be able to reduce our numbers as they take over more control,” Whitman said.

The war in Iraq is costing about $150 million a day, while continued fighting in Afghanistan is costing about $27 million a day.

The cost of the Iraq war has substantially exceeded early estimates. In 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey suggested the cost could reach $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, then the White House budget director, said Lindsey's number was too high, and said the cost would be $60 billion or less. Lindsey resigned a few months later.

Taken together, the two wars' projected $440 billion cost is almost as much as the Korean War, which cost $445 billion in 2006 dollars, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Only World War II and the Vietnam War were more expensive.

The new request is not likely to include any money for reconstruction in Iraq, officials said. Congress appropriated $18 billion for that in 2003, but much of it has been diverted to train and equip Iraqi forces.

All funding requests for the troops have been strongly approved by Congress, and this one is unlikely to generate much opposition.

“This Congress, in a very strong bipartisan way, has done anything they've been asked to do to be supportive of the troops,” said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House defense appropriations panel.

Democrats say that with the federal budget deficit expected to reach about $360 billion this year, more should be done to offset the wars' costs.

“The way we're doing this is very irresponsible,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash. “We're not demanding a sacrifice from the American people.”

The administration also will ask Congress for:

•About $18 billion for hurricane-related expenses in the Gulf Coast. That would bring the total to about $103 billion. Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., expressed concern that “Congress is in no mood to continue spending such resources.”

•About $2.3 billion to prepare for a potential bird flu pandemic. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told USA TODAY that while a vaccine is available, “We don't have the capacity to manufacture it in great enough quantities in small enough times.”

War costs
Money for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan:

•$120 billion -- Upcoming request

•$440 billion -- Total to Sept. 2007

•$1,477 -- Cost per person in USA

Sources: Office of Management and Budget; Census Bureau

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