Bush Sends $81.9 Bln War Spending Plan to Congress
By Adam Entous | February 14, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush sent Congress on Monday an $81.9 billion package to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing the total bill for both conflicts to nearly $300 billion and the budget deficit to a record high.
Bush urged Congress to "move quickly" to approve the funding plan and said it would help train Iraqis to take over security duties so U.S. troops could return home.
The package includes $74.9 billion for the Defense Department, and earmarks $17.3 billion to upgrade Army equipment and provide armor plating for all convoy trucks, a frequent target of insurgents in Iraq.
The rest of the request will be used to boost aid to the Palestinians, to reward war-on-terrorism allies Pakistan and Poland, and to fund the U.S. pledge of $950 million for reconstruction in Asian nations devastated by the December tsunami.
The White House acknowledged that the $81.9 billion request would push the federal deficit to a record $427 billion for fiscal 2005, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "We don't know what the cost will be going forward."
Bush is expected to request another war-funding package for 2006, after omitting money for that purpose from his budget request earlier this month.
The major initiatives in the package include:
* $5.7 billion to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces to fight an insurgency that continues almost two years after the 2003 invasion. The money is so Iraqis "can assume greater responsibility for their own security and our troops can return home," Bush said, but he set no timetable.
* $2 billion for Afghanistan, including $500 million to combat the drug trade, $800 million for reconstruction and economic development, $400 million for police training, and $280 million for "democracy and governance" programs, the State Department said.
* In Iraq, which has the world's largest U.S. embassy, $690 million would pay for security and logistics at the current embassy compound; another $658 million would fund a new embassy.
* $950 million for humanitarian relief and reconstruction in Asian nations devastated by December's tsunami, a $600 million increase from money already allocated for the region. Of that, $24 million will pay for the development of an early tsunami warning system.
* $400 million for nations that have sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, as a reward for them taking "political and economic risks."
* $200 million for the Palestinians. Bush has promised another $150 million in his fiscal 2006 budget. Officials left open the possibility of providing some aid directly to the Palestinian Authority.
* $242 million in response to the crisis in Darfur, including food aid and refugee assistance.
Also, Bush included $60 million to aid Ukraine and its new president. Pakistan would get $150 million. Jordan would get $300 million in economic and security assistance.
Bush's $81.9 billion request will push funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to a record $105 billion for fiscal year 2005 alone, including $25 billion in emergency spending already approved.
The new money will supplement the Pentagon budget, which totals more than $400 billion.
At nearly $300 billion, the total for Iraq and Afghanistan is almost half what the United States spent for the entire Vietnam War, in 2005 dollars.
The White House said $12 billion in new money would be used to repair, refurbish and buy military equipment, including $3.3 billion for vehicle armor and night vision equipment and $5.3 billion to restructure three brigades deploying to Iraq.
The request is expected to be approved by lawmakers despite concerns in the U.S. Congress about record federal budget deficits.
A group of moderate and conservative Democrats called the Blue Dog Coalition said in a statement they recognize "we must support our troops, but the Congress cannot continue to write blank checks."
Asked whether the $81.9 billion would be enough, John Pike, a defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, said: "It really depends on ... whether the insurgency grows or whether we've managed to contain it."
Before the invasion, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels had predicted Iraq would be "an affordable endeavor," and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz assured Congress: "We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon
(Additional reporting by Anna Willard, Andrea Shalal-Esa, Deborah Zabarenko and Steve Holland)
Link: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washi ... 14?mode=PF