WASHINGTON -- The White House will ask Congress for an
additional $70 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the fiscal year -- nearly double some
government estimates of what would be needed just a few months ago -- and will also seek $50 billion more as a down payment
for those wars in 2007, administration officials said yesterday.
If approved by Congress, the request would bring the fighting
costs for fiscal 2006, which ends Sept. 30, to about $120 billion, $35 billion more than the $85 billion that the Congressional
Budget Office estimated last year that the Pentagon would need for this fiscal year. The new request would also bring total
war spending since the 2001 terrorist attacks to $440 billion. The new war request
was announced a day after the House of Representatives cut nearly $40 billion from the budget, mostly from social programs,
to help fend off rising deficits. The additional funding, according to the White
House Office of Management and Budget, includes an estimated $4.5 billion a month, up slightly from last year, to continue
fighting the counterinsurgency in Iraq,
and around $800 million a month in Afghanistan. The funds will cover basic needs such as fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and soldier bonuses; help pay for
the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces; and be used to replace equipment that is being worn out in Iraq, the White
The United States
currently has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and about 19,000
Joel Kaplan, deputy director of OMB, told reporters in
a conference call that some of the increase could be attributed to expenses that were not taken into account in earlier estimates.
''The closer you get to the time at which you actually need to request money, the more reliable your estimate is likely to
be," he said.
For example, the figure is higher than some anticipated
partly because of the growing need to replace damaged equipment and replace weapons that have been heavily used in Iraq,
''The longer we're there, the more we see additional wear
and tear," Kaplan said. ''That's what you'd expect, particularly on some of the Army and Marine Corps equipment that dates
from the late 1980s. You see it . . . coming to the end of its life cycle, expected life cycle, sooner than it otherwise would
have, as a result of being employed in combat."
Other increases are the result of the new technologies
and other tools to help thwart the roadside bombs that remain the biggest killer of American troops in Iraq. Kaplan did not provide a specific breakdown of the funding, saying that the final
package is still being completed. It will be forwarded to Congress in about a week, he said, confirming only that $5 billion
will be set aside to help pay for part of a longstanding plan to reequip certain Army units, some of which have been slated
for duty in the Middle East. But the overall figures -- the separate requests
for $70 billion for the rest of 2006 and $50 billion for 2007 -- will also be calculated in the White House's deficit projections
when it separately releases its 2007 federal budget request on Monday, Kaplan said. The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday
that it estimates the 2006 deficit will be at least $337 and may reach $400 billion or higher, depending partly on the cost
of the Iraq War.
The new request comes on top of $50 billion the Congress
gave the Bush administration in the annual defense budget passed in December to cover the first few months of the fiscal year.
If approved, the total budget of $120 billion makes this year the costliest so far in terms of military operations since 2001.
Reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan
continues to be funded separately, out of an $18.4 billion fund approved in 2004. Much of the money has not been spent due
to the unstable security situation.
Meanwhile, the military costs, both direct and indirect,
continue to climb. President Bush ''pledged that he will commit the resources that are necessary to fight and win the war
on terrorism," Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense, said in the telephone briefing yesterday. ''A critical
part of that is ensuring our troops in the field have all the resources they need."
As for the additional $50 billion to continue funding the
wars in 2007, Kaplan said, ''It's a bridge fund, and when we get closer and we see how events over the next year have transpired
in a very fluid situation -- fluid politically and on a security basis -- we'll be in a much better position to identify the
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