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Grand Theft Pentagon

With a Democratic majority set to take over Congress in January, the White House has put forth a brazen request that amounts to a heist of the federal treasury. It is having the Pentagon ask for a staggering $160 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007. The huge request is more than last year's military spending by Russia, China, India, North Korea and Iran combined.
Grand Theft Pentagon
It just goes to show how pathetic the media are that anyone believed even for a moment that Bush and the Republicans were interested in bipartisanship. Bush's push to keep John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. indicates how determined the White House is to continue the pursuit of its ideological agenda.

While the mainstream media has picked up on this, few if any have noticed how the Bush administration is trying to trap the incoming Democratic majority with its absurd funding request for the war on terror.

The White House is trying to use the already suspect supplemental requests that fund its wars as a grab bag for whatever the various services desire.

For the first four years of the Iraq War to March of 2007 (including sums already appropriated), the cost of the Iraq War is a phenomenal $378 billion. Almost all of this is above and beyond the Pentagon's massive budget, which hit $442 billion in 2006, an increase of about 53 percent over 2000.

Despite the fact that the Iraq War is almost four years old, the White House continues to skirt the normal budget process as a way to shake more money from the tree.

With a Democratic majority set to take over Congress in January, the White House has put forth a brazen request that amounts to a heist of the federal treasury. This past February, the Bush administration requested an additional $72.4 billion for its wars. About $70 billion was appropriated by Congress with $60 billion of that for the Iraq War alone.

Now, the White House is having the Pentagon ask for a staggering $160 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007. The huge request is more than last year's military spending by Russia, China, India, North Korea and Iran combined.

Why does the Pentagon suddenly need an annual increase of more than 100 percent for the Iraq War? It's because of a little-noticed change. The supplemental funding has now become a wish list for the services to add any "costs related to the longer war against terror."

Since virtually any military expenditure can be justified as being related to a war that allegedly spans the globe and which supposedly will last for decades, the services have gone on a shopping spree.

The Bush administration appears to be setting up the Democrats. If they refuse to fund the appropriation count on lots of right-wing histrionics about our troops being left defenseless by the weak-willed Democrats; if they do fund the request, it means that the Pentagon's budget will exceed $600 billion in the next fiscal year.

Add in extra direct costs such as veterans affairs, embassy protection, nuclear weapons development the figure rises to $722 billion. Truly, a stunning amount.

The enormous request may also be driven by an inter-service rivalry between the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy.

Last month, the Army brass sent shockwaves through the Beltway by asking for $138.8 billion in '08 as part of its regular budget, including an extra $25 billion.

Showing a complete lack of shame, Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker said the service was "trying to overcome a Cinderella story" in asking for such a gargantuan increase to pay for an entirely new generation of weapons of technology while having to also replace the current one because it's being trashed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the current generation of Army weapons its tanks, combat helicopters and hi-tech computer and communication systems are a waste as they were designed for fighting a large-scale conventional war not the "small wars" that the United States has been embroiled in for decades.

The three main branches have an informal truce that gives a 30 percent slice of the Pentagon budget to both the Air Force and Navy, and another 25 percent for the Army. The Army's request would bring it share to around 30 percent also.

The Pentagon came back, however, and said the Army could only have an extra $7 billion but the services could include other requests beyond the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the supplemental appropriation request. (I've included the full text of the New York Times article below because it's only available to premium subscribers. It's also typical of the Times. What should have been the top story of the day was a brief item with the most important information buried at the end.)

So now it's Christmas for the various services and Uncle Sam is Santa Claus. The Army received most of the $70 billion "bridge funding" approved last month but is still asking for $80 billion in "emergency appropriations" for next year. The Air Force is being thrifty by comparison, only asking for $50 billion in emergency funds for next year.

Congress won't give the Pentagon everything it wishes, but it will probably approve most of it because it the Democrats don't want to appear weak as the jockeying for the '08 races move to center stage.

Think about this the next time some pundit or politician says we can't afford a national healthcare system.

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White House Is Trimming Army Budget for Next Year, Officials Say

The New York Times



October 28, 2006

White House budget officials are planning on asking for a $121 billion budget for the Army next year, not the $138 billion that senior Army officials have been seeking, two senior Pentagon officials said Friday.

Army officials were told of the decision in an Oct. 19 memorandum from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England, which noted that changes in the Army allotment were still possible, as deliberations continued over the Bush administration's budget for the 2008 fiscal year, said officials who had seen the memorandum.

The Army budget figure was first reported by Bloomberg News. The request will go to Congress in February.

But it appears that the preliminary decision to scale back the annual budget request for the Army could be offset later in the year, in a so-called supplemental appropriation like those Congress has passed every year since 2001. The extra money in those bills has financed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as unanticipated costs elsewhere.

In another memorandum issued this week, Mr. England informed the Army and other military services that the administration's ground rules covering what costs can be included in so-called supplemental spending bills ''are being expanded'' to include ''costs related to the longer war against terror,'' not just continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said that in some cases the supplemental spending could be used to buy newer equipment or to speed other improvements in military capabilities.

Steven Kosiak, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the Pentagon was ''sending a signal to the services'' that they now have permission not to limit their request to war-related costs.

Supplemental financing for the Defense Department this year totaled $117 billion, Mr. Kosiak said.

Though the administration has decided to seek only a $7 billion increase over this year's $114 billion appropriation for the Army, supplemental financing offers a chance for the Army to restore some of the money it has been denied, officials said.

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