President Bush goes to the Pentagon Tuesday to press Congress to pass his war budget. He wants roughly $75 billion in emergency funds to cover the cost of the conflict in Iraq and related expenses. This will be the president's first appearance at the Department of Defense since the start of the war. And he is going there to stress the financial cost of the conflict.
White House officials say they will need about $75 billion to pay for the war, help allies and strengthen counter-terrorism efforts at home. They want Congress to act in a matter of weeks to approve the necessary funds.
Most of the money, about $63 billion, is earmarked for the Pentagon. Roughly $8 billion will be used for aid to allies, and to pay for initial relief and reconstruction costs. The remainder, just over $4 billion, will go to enhance domestic security.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked if the administration is sure this emergency request will be enough to cover the cost of the conflict. "That's correct. That is why the president is making the request he is making," he said.
But some lawmakers think the White House is being short-sighted. After taking part in a meeting Monday between the president and congressional leaders, Senator Patrick Leahy said a long-term view is needed. The Vermont Democrat predicted the United States will have big expenses in the region for years, long after the current hostilities end. "For the next ten days or so everybody in the world is going to be watching what is going on. I am more concerned about during the next ten years that we not lose a commitment, because that part of the world will watch everything we do for the next ten years," says Mr. Leahy. "And the success of this whole operation will depend upon how we do that. That is where the heavy money [the big expenses] will come in."
The Pentagon appearance will mark a shift in the president's public schedule, now that the war is approaching its second week. For the first few days, he stayed largely out of sight, letting military officials do most of the talking. Now, Mr. Bush is returning to the spotlight with events designed to win support for his Iraq policy, and speeches carefully balanced to reassure the American people, while cautioning that the conflict in Iraq will not be easy and it will take time.