Tuesday, February 22, 2005

$82 Billion "Emergency Spending" Bill Just Bush's Back-Door Way to Expand Defense Spending

President Bush's $82 billion "emergency spending" bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being criticized as a back-door way to increase defense spending without congressional oversight.

"It removes from our oversight responsibilities the scrutiny that these programs deserve," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told military service chiefs at a hearing Feb. 17.

The big question is: Why is this "emergency spending"? A look at what the supplemental budget includes suggests a mix of things that could have been covered in the recently announced FY 2006 budget, as well as a handful of items unrelated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to $36.3 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $82 billion budget includes:

-- $12 billion to repair and replace military equipment
-- $5.7 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces
-- $5.6 billion in international aid, including embassy construction and operations in Iraq, counter-drug activities in Afghanistan, support for the Palestinians, and humanitarian aid for the Darfur region of Sudan
-- $5.3 billion for Army and Marine "modular" reorganization.
-- $3.3 billion to armor convoy trucks and to buy other armored vehicles, night-vision equipment and helicopter defense systems.
-- $2 billion for coalition partners Poland and Pakistan.
-- $1.3 billion to train and equip Afghan forces
-- $950 million for aid to Asian tsunami victims, including $226M to reimburse the Defense Department and $23 million to expand the U.S. tsunami warning system.
-- $400 million for enhanced benefits for survivors of service members killed since military operations began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank, which has research contracts with the Pentagon, told The Washington Post that such "modularity" costs -- while necessary -- hardly constitute an emergency and should have been included in the president's base budget unveiled earlier this month. Much of the costs of replacing equipment will probably turn out to be regular weapons-procurement costs not related to Iraq emergencies, Thompson suggested.

"Why this funding is in an emergency supplemental [request] is hard to explain. It looks as though they want a bigger defense budget without admitting it," he told the Post.

***

This back-door spending plan serves several purposes:

-- The spending bill will be passed by the Republican-controlled Congress. But, as McCain said, the "emergency" status prevents detailed (and potentially messy) scrutiny. For example, as the Post reports, we may never know how much of that $5.7 billion for Iraqi security troops -- a tenfold increase -- will go to training, how much will be for equipment, and how much might be used simply to pay beleaguered Iraqi police and national guard units.

-- Democrats will be hard-pressed to criticize the "emergency spending" status. What Democrat will want to be on the record criticizing the inclusion of tsunami relief or international aid? Even if legitimately such aid should have been included in the budget released earlier this month -- it's not as though the tsunami or Darfur or the rest occurred in the last few days -- any seasoned politician should know that this administration will gladly blast via the Rush Limbaughs and Joe Scarboroughs of the world the simplistic message that Democratic Congressman X is "against tsunami relief -- let's throw the bum out!"

-- The administration knows that the average American in Boise, Topeka or Altoona doesn't pay close enough attention to care about the nuances between what should go into a regular annual budget and what should go into an emergency supplemental budget. It's counting only on the average American hearing President Bush or one of his subordinates tout the "big issues" -- fight terrorism over there, aid tsunami victims (hey, that's "compassionate conservatism") and help the Iraqis and Afghani defend their freedom.

***

Hey, I never said the people running the adminsitration were stupid. Dishonest? Sure. Hypocritical? Absolutely. But don't discount this Karl Rove-led machine's ability to get what it wants, under the premise of "the ends justify the means."

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one is going to tell me the terrorists have not been comforted by the obvious burden these expenditures place on the U.S. economy, and the ability of the super power to carry out other high-cost military operatives in Iran or elsewhere where they might actually be necessary next time.
The terrorist like that the funding is so controversial the only way Bush can get it is to sneak it through congress under the guise of emergency funding. It also comes apparantely at the expense of homeland security.
Al Queda is laughing at Bush.

Further, The Bush Administration is not being held accountable for having earlier wildly miscalculated the costs of this war, i.e. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.
It's the apparent motivation of this administration to hide precisely how this money would be spent and whether it would be spent wisely. A cover up of the earlier miscalculations? A sound deal for Haliburton?

Someone should start a website collecting petitions from millions of people who are greatly concerned about the Bush Administration surreptitiously bankrupting and weakening this country as a result of its unthought-out and massively costly military adventures in the Middle East yet to prove of any long-term value to the U.S.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you see Jon Stewart last night? They ran a clip from before the war, where some Bush flunky said that the U.S. taxpayers' commitment would be $11.2 billion, and that would be it.

Yeah, right.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If any Democrat had done this, you know the Republicans would be calling for impeachment.

5:40 PM  

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