White House seeks to throw our money into quagmire


Richard Moore

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Pentagon eyes $468.9 bln budget for fiscal 2008
Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:39 PM ET

By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has approved a $468.9 billion budget for 
the Pentagon in fiscal year 2008, a six-percent increase over last year's 
request, according to a Defense Department document obtained by Reuters.

It is also asking the Pentagon to cover some Army and Marine Corps war costs in 
Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the regular budget, rather than through 
emergency budget requests.

The 2008 budget request is $4.7 billion more than the level the Pentagon 
forecast in its 2007 budget documents.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England welcomed the increase in a letter to Rob
Portman, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

But he strongly objected to OMB's orders that "costs to accelerate Army and 
Marine Corps combat and combat support units, Army Force Readiness and 
replacement of additional aircraft losses" should be funded as part of the 2008 

England said that violated the Pentagon's earlier agreement with the White House
that the extra spending would be used to cover Army budget shortfalls, and that 
war costs would continue to be funded through supplemental budgets.

The Bush administration is continuing to discuss budgets with various government
agencies, including the Pentagon, and will submit a fiscal 2008 budget to 
Congress in February.

"The inconsistency ... is that adding war costs in the budget would effectively 
negate the prior agreement for a topline increase," England said in the December
14 memorandum.

Offsets proposed by White House budget officials would "significantly weaken the
department's strategic position" and jeopardize the Pentagon's joint warfighting
concept, he said.

England did not give details on the proposed offsets.

However, he said the Pentagon's initial budget proposal -- before the suggested 
offsets -- was based on thousands of hours of work, and the best judgment by 
senior military and civilian leaders.

"It is balanced and provides for our nation's defense at a time of diverse and 
dramatic threats," England said.


U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated about the Pentagon's use of 
supplemental budgets to fund war costs, given that the costs are no longer 
"unanticipated," said Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategy and Budgetary 
Assessments, a Washington-based research group.

But he said lawmakers wanted more oversight of that spending than permitted in 
the supplemental budgets, and there was no suggestion that they would curb 
funding for the war.

"They would like the administration to ask for most of the funding up front," he

Kosiak also rejected England's statement in the memo that the 2008 increase 
"reverses a trend of declining real growth", calling England's description 
"flat-out wrong".

"There has been a upward trend in real terms, above the rate of inflation," he 
said, citing a 23 percent real increase, above inflation, in the Pentagon's 
budget from 2000 to 2007.

Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said England's letter 
revealed the Pentagon's growing concern about being able to modernize its forces
and fund new weapons programs while paying escalating war bills.

"This has real significance for the Pentagon in terms of being able to fund 
other items besides the war," he said.

The Pentagon is likely to ask for an additional $100 billion to fund the Iraq 
and Afghanistan wars early next year.

The Pentagon's 2008 overall budget request of $468.9 for fiscal 2008 is 6.3 
percent higher than its fiscal 2007 budget request of $441.2 billion.

© Reuters 2006.

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