- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

The Defense Department would have to curtail worldwide operations, training and maintenance if Congress doesn't approve the president's $74.7 billion supplemental-spending request soon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
The department is borrowing from accounts meant for the close of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, Mr. Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee and a House Appropriations subcommittee.
"If this continues, we'll run out of discretionary funds by late spring or early summer … which could force us to curtail training, maintenance and other activities," he said.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told both panels that without the money, the war on terror would have to be curtailed.
Gen. Myers said that approving the money would send a signal of strong support to U.S. troops in Iraq.
"While we have troops in combat, the importance of support from home cannot be overstated, and it's up to all of us to show them that our words are reflected in our actions," he said.
The administration's request specifies $62.6 billion for the Defense Department, including $7.1 billion to transport troops to and from the Persian Gulf region; $13.1 billion for fuel, supplies, spare parts and maintenance; $15.6 billion for personnel costs; $7.2 billion to replace the munitions that have been expended; and $12 billion to root out terrorists and locate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Some Democrats and Republicans have questioned whether those numbers accurately reflect the full cost of the war in Iraq, and yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld said they do not. He said they are just the "best estimate," assuming a particular duration and intensity for the U.S.-led attack to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Since we can't know how long the effort in Iraq is going to last, we certainly can't tell what it's going to cost. It's not knowable," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Both the House and Senate committee chairmen said they will try to pass the bill by April 11, the deadline set by the president.
Democrats said that they will support the request.
"Mister secretary, don't worry about the money. You know and I know you're going to get the money," said Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat.
One sticking point, however, is the flexibility the administration is demanding.
For the defense portion, it is asking that $59.9 billion of the money go into a Defense Emergency Response Fund, which allows the administration to move money from program to program without having to go to Congress first for approval.
Several senators and House members said they oppose such broad flexibility, based on past experiences where they felt the administration abused some of the authority extended by Congress.
Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the House panel, said after Congress appropriated $20 billion with similar flexibility after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the money was never fully accounted for.
"You can understand why we're not interested in playing kissy-face with these authorities," he said.
But both committee chairmen indicated they will support the request for flexibility as long as the administration will agree to accountability.
"If we don't have a problem with the flexibility, can we get you to agree that you won't have any problem with accountability?" said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican and chairman of the full House committee.
"Absolutely," Mr. Rumsfeld responded.
The Senate panel also heard from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who told lawmakers he agreed with those members who want to change the allocation system because it does not account for some states and localities that have a higher risk of terrorist attacks. The formula allocates most of the money evenly to all states.
The spending bill also includes $4 billion for homeland security and $8 billion to help rebuild Iraq and provide assistance to countries fighting the war on terror.
The House yesterday also approved a resolution regarding the war that urges President Bush to set a national day of prayer and fasting. It passed 346-49, with 23 members voting "present."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide