- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

In its first mobilization of forces to a potential combat zone since the Vietnam War, the Coast Guard is sending roughly 600 people and eight cutters to the Persian Gulf.
Vice Adm. James Hull "ordered the deployments this week as the United States repositions some of its military forces where required to support the war on terrorism and to prepare for future contingencies," the Coast Guard stated yesterday.
A spokesman, Cmdr. Jim McPherson, said the aim of the deployment is to "deter the suicide bomb threat."
Cmdr. McPherson said the cutters 110-foot high-speed patrol boats will be departing within the next few days and their role will be to protect "high-value targets" such as Navy ships, oil tankers and military command vessels.
"The Coast Guard has a long history of operating jointly with Department of Defense forces in matters of national security," Adm. Hull said.
More than 60,000 troops are already in the Gulf region, to be joined by about 120,000 more over the next few weeks.
In addition to that buildup, almost 16,000 more reserve troops have been called to duty, swelling the total number to almost 95,000, the biggest since the 1991 Gulf war. Many are now moving to the Gulf region along with regular troops, ships and warplanes.
The buildup at home and abroad has cost the Pentagon at least $15 billion more than its budget can cover, and the gap must be filled soon or troop training will have to be cut, according to the Pentagon.
Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller, said Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press that the military also is accumulating additional unbudgeted costs as it mobilizes reservists and sends tens of thousands of troops and tons of equipment to the Persian Gulf region in preparation for a possible war in Iraq.
He would not say how much the troop buildup is costing.
"We're still estimating," he said. "It's changing almost daily."
The budget problem could grow significantly, Mr. Zakheim said, if President Bush should decide to attack Iraq, and Congress did not cover the extra costs.
"If one were to actually engage in combat, then the [cost] estimate would skyrocket," he said. "How high it would skyrocket, nobody knows. Nobody can know because we don't know how long the war would go on, what kind of opposition we'll face, what kind of losses we might have to suffer. And that's without even beginning to think about reconstruction afterward."
Mr. Zakheim said the administration has not yet decided how to structure its request to Congress for extra money. It would be in addition to the current $355 billion budget that was meant to cover expenses through Sept. 30.
If the extra money is not made available by April 1, some routine training will have to be canceled to make ends meet, he said.

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