- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

President Bush yesterday asked for another $72.4 billion for the war on terror and $19.8 billion for hurricane recovery in two separate emergency spending requests sent to Congress.

The defense request brings the total estimated cost for the war on terror this fiscal year to $110.8 billion, or 10 percent higher than the 2005 cost of about $100 billion.

“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,” Mr. Bush said in a letter transmitting his request to the House.

The defense spending request includes $65.3 billion for the Defense Department, $4.2 billion for the State Department and $2.9 billion for intelligence activities.

All told, the cost of the war now has reached nearly $400 billion through Sept. 30, which is the end of this fiscal year.

Of the Pentagon portion, $5.9 billion would go to train and equip security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defense Department officials assumed an average of 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, which is the current level, even though the administration has indicated that troop levels could fall this year.

Tina Jonas, the comptroller for the Defense Department, said they will need the money in the “next few months” but would not set a deadline for Congress to act.

She said, though, that last year’s emergency spending request caused them some difficulty in trying to maintain funding because it was not signed into law until May 11.

This year’s 10 percent increase in the cost of the war compares with the 45 percent jump from 2004 to 2005.

The State Department’s request includes $514 million for peacekeeping efforts and assistance in Sudan and $75 million to fund Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent promise to promote democracy efforts in Iran.

The hurricane spending, meanwhile, comes on top of the $87 billion in spending and $8 billion in tax cuts already approved for hurricane relief. Of the $19.8 billion, $9.4 billion will go to disaster relief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue paying for families’ shelter, medical care, debris removal and the rebuilding of public facilities.

Conservative House Republicans said they will fight to keep the spending requests separate because many of them want to vote for the war spending but against the federal hurricane spending.

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said they will “defer to the congressional leadership” on whether to bundle the requests together.

Some Democrats, meanwhile, viewed the defense request skeptically.

“President Bush declared ‘mission accomplished’ on May 1, 2003,” said Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “Hundreds of billions of dollars later, the administration continues to hide the war’s full costs with piecemeal requests so that they don’t have to take responsibility for its impact on the budget and can continue down a fiscally reckless path.”

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