President Bush will ask the U.S. Congress for another $80 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money will be added to the current federal budget for 2005.
The supplemental request was expected, but the size still took some by surprise.
In a written statement, President Bush said he is fulfilling promises made to American troops and the Iraqi people.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan put it this way.
“Our troops are on the front lines of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and we are going to do everything we can to make sure they have the resources they need to complete their mission,” he said.
White House officials say they will need another $80 billion or so to cover war costs for 2005, adding on to the $25 billion passed early by Congress. If approved by lawmakers, the latest request would push overall spending for the conflict in Iraq and the wider war on terrorism to just over $300 billion dollars since the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Most of the $80 billion, about $75 billion, will pay for military operations. The rest will go to the State Department for a variety of uses, including embassy construction, support for reform efforts by the new Palestinian government, and aid for the victims of the violence in Sudan's Darfur province.
Detailed figures will not be released until the formal supplemental request is sent to Capitol Hill. That is expected just days after the president formally submits his budget blueprint for 2006 to Congress on February 7.
When asked why they announced the $80 billion weeks before sending it to lawmakers, officials said they wanted to demonstrate their commitment to Iraq prior to the January 30th elections. They said they believe this amount will be sufficient to cover America's war costs for the rest of the 2005 fiscal year.
Some Democrats in Congress are already questioning the supplemental request, noting it is well above the estimates put forward by the administration at the start of the conflict in Iraq. They also point to new figures showing an increasing budget deficit put out by congressional accountants and the White House's own economists.
Including the cost of the new supplemental, the White House Office of Management and Budget now predicts the deficit for 2005 will total $427 billion. But the president's spokesman told reporters the administration is still on track to meet its long-term deficit cutting goals.
“The president has a deficit reduction plan that is based on strong economic growth and spending restraint,” Mr. McClellan added. “By taking steps that we have to get our economy growing stronger and creating jobs, we are also seeing increased revenues coming in. And by working with congress to exercise responsible spending restraint we got a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years.”
But officials acknowledge they have no way of knowing how much extra money may be needed to fight the war on terrorism in the years ahead. They only say the costs will be determined by the events on the ground.