Archive for Friday, February 17, 2006

White House seeks $65.3 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan war costs

February 17, 2006

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— U.S. military spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will rise to $115 billion for this year - and nearly $400 billion since the fighting started - under a new White House request submitted Thursday to Congress.

The Bush administration submitted a $65.3 billion war request, and Pentagon officials said the money would be sufficient to conduct the two wars at least through Sept. 30. Congress had approved $50 billion more for the war effort in December.

"These funds support U.S. Armed Forces and Coalition partners as we advance democracy, fight the terrorists and insurgents, and train and equip Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their sovereignty and freedom," President Bush said in a letter transmitting the request to Congress.

The Pentagon said the latest request assumes a U.S. force of 138,000 troops on the ground in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, even though the administration has signaled that troop numbers would fall below that this year.

A separate request for almost $20 billion in new hurricane relief funds would bring total spending in response to Katrina and Rita to more than $100 billion.

The supplemental spending request for the wars would bring the total price tag for the Iraq and Afghanistan missions to almost $400 billion. Bush's budget anticipates an additional $50 billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, though the costs are likely to be much greater.

Thursday's dual requests totaled $91 billion and came 10 days after Bush submitted his $2.8 trillion federal budget for 2007. Overall, the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars consumes about 4 percent of the budget.

Still, war and hurricane relief costs and the burgeoning budget deficit - estimated to hit a record $423 billion this year - have put a squeeze on other programs. Bush's budget proposed cuts for a variety of domestic programs such as education, Amtrak, community development and local law enforcement grants, and proposed curbing inflation increases for Medicare providers.

Congress is likely to vote on the massive requests next month, but lawmakers already are grumbling that the White House left out funds for highway repairs in Gulf Coast states and for various agriculture disasters dotting the Midwest. On the other side of the spectrum, conservatives think the Katrina request should be matched with spending cuts elsewhere.

The latest request also includes $4.2 billion for State Department operations and foreign aid, such as $75 million to promote democratic institutions in Iran and $514 million to support peacekeeping efforts and provide food aid in Sudan.

Adding it up

¢The war in Iraq now costs about $5.9 billion a month, while Afghanistan operations cost about $900 million per month.

That doesn't include the costs of replacing worn-out or destroyed equipment or training Iraqi and Afghan forces.

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