By Jessica Holzer and Matthew Swibel
Thursday 09 November 2006
The U.S. armed services have requested a $160 billion supplemental
appropriation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the remainder
of fiscal year 2007 - a staggering amount that, if approved by the
Defense Department, may hasten the showdown between resurgent
congressional Democrats and the Bush administration over the budget-
busting War on Terror.
The request - which will likely include all costs related to the war
on terrorism - far surpasses the $94 billion supplemental authorized
earlier this year to fund the ongoing wars as well as hurricane recovery
in the Gulf and is nearly double the $82 billion Iraq war supplemental
outlay of 2005. It comes within days of Republicans' stunning losses in
the midterm elections and the resignation of embattled Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, who was set to decide on the request Nov. 15.
President Bush said Wednesday that he would nominate as Rumsfeld's
replacement Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency
under the presidency of his father, George H.W. Bush.
While House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has vowed not to
undercut the troops in the field, defense experts said that she and
other Democratic leaders probably hadn't anticipated the massive request.
"I'm not sure they've grasped the potential size of this forthcoming
supplemental request. We'll just have to see whether they can choke down
that amount of dough," said Tom Donnelly, a defense expert at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Bush said in a White House news conference Wednesday morning that he
had reached out to the Democratic leadership of the new Congress and
hopes to work closely with them. He made no mention of this supplemental
appropriation for the War on Terror.
While a good chunk of the $160 billion request will be used to
replace worn equipment, it also covers additional systems, armor and
weaponry and thus is a blueprint for pressing on with the current troop
levels in Iraq and strategy in the War on Terror.
"It's not just going to be 'I broke my tank, and I want to fix it,'"
Small-cap defense contractors, such as DRS Technologies, Essex and
Armor Holdings, are particularly sensitive to defense supplementals
because they don't hold as much sway over the regular defense
appropriations process. However, they are not likely to be counting on a
defense supplemental of such size.
Critics contend that the Bush administration has skirted the normal
budget process for these defense expenditures to avoid scrutiny of the
costs of the ongoing wars. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has sponsored
legislation to fold these war costs into regular defense spending bills.
Such emergency supplementals are often used for spending that
doesn't past muster in the light of the normal budget process: For
example, more than $7.5 billion in spending slashed from the 2005
defense appropriations bill was restored in the next supplemental,
according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
And they are magnets for pork from both sides of the aisle. In the
2005 defense and tsunami relief supplemental, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-
Hawaii, added $40 million for flood damage and mitigation in the Manoa
Valley on the island of Oahu.