A senior U.S. official has provided Congress with an early projection of how much money the Bush administration will request next year for military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Comments by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz came as the House of Representatives approved Defense Appropriations bill by a vote 403 to 17 calling for more than $400 billion in Pentagon spending, including $25 billion for ongoing operations in those countries.
As they worked through the administration's request, some lawmakers proposed making as much as $50 billion dollars available.
Democrats and Republicans have been critical of the administration's handling of Iraq and Afghanistan funding, calling it inefficient and piecemeal.
During debate on the defense spending bill, Congressman David Obey accused the administration of not being honest with Americans about the true costs of military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"At first the administration admitted no need whatsoever for additional funding," he said. "Now they are, at least, fessing up to the fact that the first quarter costs will be $25 billion. In fact, the Pentagon's internal estimates indicate that it will cost at least $50 billion more than we are being told. If this bill fessed up to the full costs of funding this war, we would be appropriating at least $50 billion more than we are appropriating today."
House legislation makes the $25 billion available immediately upon enactment of the bill, giving the Pentagon a badly needed infusion of funds in the final months of 2004, technically the beginning of the 2005 fiscal year.
Appearing at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz gave lawmakers an idea of what they can expect when the administration makes its next supplemental spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan, likely in early 2005.
He said that request, which would be the fourth to Congress since U.S. forces entered Iraq last year, could be more than twice the current $25 billion contained in House and Senate legislation.
"It should in no way be taken as implying that $25 billion is what we need for fiscal year 2005, in fact the number could very easily be twice that, it's hard to predict, it could be more than twice that. It is certainly not going to be less than that," he noted.
The Senate is still working on completing 2005 defense legislation.