Officials Testify on Funding Request for Iraq, Afghanistan Ops
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 2, 2004 White House and Defense Department officials testified on Capitol Hill today on the president's request for $25 billion in contingency funds for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a two-hour meeting before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, officials stated that "unforeseen developments" on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the need for additional funding as an "insurance policy" for continued operations.
Citing requests for additional troops, armored vehicles and protective vests, Joel Kaplan, deputy director, Office of Management and Budget told the subcommittee that the Pentagon could face a shortfall in funding before fiscal 2005.
He said the supplemental request would ensure that commanders and troops on the ground have "what they need."
Kaplan said key points of the request include:
- Ensuring commanders and troops in the field have the resources needed to accomplish the mission;
- Appropriating the request into the Iraqi Freedom Fund;.
- Activating the funds only after the president requests designating all or part of the funding as an emergency and essential to operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
- Intending the reserve fund for operations in Afghanistan or Iraq only.
- Noting that the reserve fund is in addition to funds that will be requested by the president in DoD's 2005 budget.
The $25 billion request includes money mostly for operations and maintenance: $14 billion for the Army; $1 billion for the Navy; $2 billion for the Marine Corps; and $1 billion for the Air Force.
Another $2 billion would be set aside for defensewide emergencies, and up to $5 billion for other DoD appropriations.
"The fund is set up with those accounts specifically for the O&M accounts because we know those are the accounts that are under the most stress," Kaplan said.
He said the administration plans to return to Congress with a full supplemental in early 2005 once more precise costs of military operational needs can be determined.
Lawrence Lanziollotta, principal deputy undersecretary of defense (comptroller) told the senators that meetings among the armed forces led to the contingency supplemental request.
He referred specifically to the service chiefs' mid-year review on the 2004 budget.
"It was consultation with the services at every step of the way that led us to get a full understanding of our 2004 requirements," he testified.
The general discussion by service-level chiefs during the mid-year review was that it would be prudent to have a contingency fund by the beginning of fiscal year 2005 so that we could stabilize the way we were spending on the force, stabilize training, and be able to continue operations," added Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Pace also assured the committee that some funding will be used to purchase armored vehicles and protective vests for troops.
Some subcommittee members voiced concerns on how the money will be spent, while others said they did not expect to see an additional funding request until the 2005 budget year.
"We've been forthcoming as what the current operational costs (are), as far as what our 'burn rates' have been," Lanziollotta said. "The problem that we have right now is the unforecasted things that happen on the ground, to be able to adjust to meet those."
He pointed out that even after the 2004 budget, the administration had significant problems in determining costs for requirements on the ground versus assets that were made available.
"We don't have the data or the accuracy to be able to project that far ahead as what possibly could happen," Lanziollotta replied.
He said the cost of the war, or burn rate, in Iraq is estimated at $5 billion a month. In Afghanistan it's about $700 million a month.
Meanwhile, Kaplan said the Pentagon had hoped not to come forward with a supplemental until the 2005 budget, when there was more reliable and precise estimate of what the needs of the military would be in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also told the subcommittee the hope is that as the Iraqi and Afghan armies accelerate their training and take over more of their own security, the needs for the U.S. military, as well as the cost of operations, will diminish.