Pentagon expands war-funding push
Jim Wolf / Reuters | October 28 2006
The U.S. Defense Department is expanding the scope of what it deems war-related spending, a move that would make it easier to meet growing Army and other service requests for more funding overall.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, in a memorandum dated Wednesday, told military chiefs to base their requests for funding outside the regular defense budget on the "longer war against terror."
Such requests should be "not strictly limited" to Iraq, Afghanistan and operations from Philippines to Djibouti sparked by the September 11 attacks, England wrote. He said they should be sent to the defense secretary's office by November 1.
The memorandum was made available Friday by InsideDefense.com, an online news service. The memo did not define the "longer war" -- a term that could open the door to more spending on everything from intelligence to the pricey process of making Army brigades more readily deployable.
Included were fix-up costs for war-worn equipment or "replacement to newer models when existing equipment is no longer available or repair economically feasible," England said.
Also included were "costs to accelerate specific force capability necessary to prosecute the war." England said the requests must be for items for which funds can be "obligated" in fiscal 2007, which began on October 1.
"Funds that cannot be obligated in FY '07 will be requested in a following supplemental," he wrote.
With passage of the fiscal 2006 supplemental spending bill, war-related appropriations would total about $436.8 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and enhanced security at military bases, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in a September 22 report.
All this is in addition to the more than $500 billion sought by President Bush in his baseline fiscal 2007 national defense request.
The Pentagon's so-called supplemental requests are not subject to restrictive caps placed by Congress on total federal discretionary spending -- the part outside of mandatory entitlements.
As a result, they may be used to shift certain costs from the annual baseline defense budget. In addition, supplemental appropriation requests do not require the kind of detailed budget justification material that Congress expects with regular Defense Department funding requests.
"What this memo appears to do is recognize the services' concerns that they need supplementals to help them cope with the shortfalls in their programs generated by the longer war on terror," said Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial officer from 2001 to April 2004.
Steven Kosiak, an expert on U.S. military spending at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said measures to pay for ongoing military operations were widely considered "must-pay bills, must-pass legislation" in Congress.
While Defense Department long-term budgets were projected out six years at a time each year when sent to lawmakers, supplemental war costs do not show up in any long-term spending plan, he said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a regular news briefing on Thursday, said it was "very difficult to know what ought to go in the budget and what ought to go in the supplemental."
"We've been working very hard to get 'reset' money for the Army," Rumsfeld said, using Pentagon jargon for funds to replace or refurbish combat-damaged gear. "The Army needs it. So does the Marine Corps. So do some of the other services that have reset problems."
The Army has been pushing for a $25 billion increase to its fiscal 2008 budget, but the Defense Department so far has offered only $7 billion, according to another England memo published by InsideDefense.com.
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