United Press International
February 11, 2004
WASHINGTON - The military will have no money to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for three months beginning Oct. 1 because the White House is declining to ask Congress for funding until December or January, well after the presidential election.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee the $38 billion he has for 2004 war operations will last only until the end of September, as he spends $3.7 billion a month in Iraq and about $900 million a month in Afghanistan. The Army has about 114,000 soldiers in Iraq and roughly 10,000 in Afghanistan.
"I am concerned on how we bridge between the end of this fiscal year and when we can get a supplemental in the next fiscal year," Schoomaker told the committee.
The fiscal year -- the government's spending year -- runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 annually. Funds for 2004, therefore, run out Sept. 30, 2004.
The Marine Corps, which will send about 75,000 Marines to Iraq in 2004/2005 and expects to need $1.5 billion, is in a similar financial bind.
"I share the concerns of the chief of staff of the army about this," said Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee.
The war has been funded by emergency supplemental appropriations, separate from the Pentagon's annual budget, which is not set up to pay for "contingency operations."
The first Iraq supplemental, requested in March 2003, gave the Pentagon around $63 billion for the war. The second supplemental of $87 billion was requested by President Bush in September 2003. It will run out on Oct. 1. Roughly $19 billion of that total is going toward Iraq civil reconstruction. About $10 billion is for Afghanistan.
President Bush is not asking Congress for a 2005 supplemental until December or January, according to Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday the decision not to request a supplemental rested with the White House. He could not explain why the administration would allow a three-month gap in funding the war on terror, ostensibly its top priority.
"They have so many factors to consider. They have to look at all the departments and agencies. I don't know -- they'll certainly know a lot more," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld and Zakheim have said the delay has to do with wanting to wait to get better detail on what the spending needs will be.
Zakheim said the services can cover the gap by shifting funding around in regular budgets until the White House requests additional money.
"As you move into the fiscal year, Oct. 1, November, December, January, you're going to know an awful lot more than you know today in February," Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
The White House had sufficient detail and foresight last year to request $87 billion for the coming fiscal year on Sept. 7, 2003.
That date however, coincided with a precipitous drop in President Bush's approval ratings, according to polling data from the Gallup Organization.
Between Aug. 25 and 26, Bush had an approval rating of 59 percent. In polls conducted Sept. 8-10, it had dropped to 52 percent. Less than two weeks later, Bush's approval rating was at 50 percent -- the lowest ever in his three years in office. His approval rating bounced back to 63 percent immediately after Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq in December, but dipped to 49 the last week of January. It has risen back to 52 percent this week.
With early polls suggesting likely Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry and President Bush very close in approval ratings, the White House may not want to risk a drop related to asking for additional funding so close to the November election.
If the current spending rate continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is likely to need around $50 billion for military operations alone.