Friday, February 02, 2007

$300 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan

By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush will propose on Monday spending nearly $300 billion more through 2009 for the war on terror, which is dominated by the war in Iraq, a senior administration official said today.
The funding, sure to be closely scrutinized by Congress, will include:

•$100 billion for the 2007 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, which when added to spending already in the pipeline would bring the year's total to $170 billion.

•$145 billion for 2008, a figure derived from this year's troop levels and expenditures.

•$50 billion to get started on 2009. More funds likely will be needed.

This marks the first time the administration has estimated war costs so far ahead or been as specific about how the Pentagon and State Department intend to spend the money. The added detail is a response to past criticism from Congress. The senior official has direct knowledge of the budget plans and did not want to be identified because the fiscal blueprint has not yet been officially released.

WAR SPENDING: Experts worried about budget's scope

Since 2001, the United States has spent or will spend at least $504 billion on the war on terror — including $334 billion on Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The latest spending proposals will push the total over $800 billion. The 2008 estimate is $25 billion lower than the 2007 total because it does not include as much money for fixing and replacing equipment, the official said. It also does not include money for the additional 21,500 combat troops being sent to Iraq under Bush's new war plan. The administration estimates the troop increase, which will be covered by existing funds, will cost $5.6 billion; the Congressional Budget Office says it could cost at least $13 billion.

The additional requests for funding will come in two forms: a $100 billion supplemental budget bill for 2007, and the president's 2008 budget. Both will be delivered to Congress on Monday.

The Democratic-controlled Congress has promised to closely vet all new spending on the Iraq war. House Democrats have proposed making dramatic changes in how the money is spent, diverting money from Iraq to be used for military readiness at home. In particular, Democrats and Republicans alike have been critical of spending on reconstruction in Iraq. The budget also will include an increase in spending on veterans, largely for medical care as troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs will get the largest percentage increase of any domestic agency, the administration official said.

Other highlights of the proposed fiscal 2008 budget, expected to top $2.8 trillion:

•The expected increase in Medicare spending would be trimmed by $66 billion, nearly twice the savings Bush sought last year. Higher-income seniors would be asked to pay more for doctors' bills and prescription drugs. Most of the other cuts would affect hospitals, doctors, clinics and labs.

Even with the reductions, Medicare spending would rise by 6.7% annually over the next 10 years, down from a projected 7.6%.

•The maximum Pell grant for low- and middle-income college students would increase from $4,150 to $4,600 in 2008 and to $5,400 by 2012.

•A total of 141 programs will be eliminated or substantially reduced for a savings of $12 billion over five years. That's the same number of programs Bush tried to cut in the current year's budget. Most of them survived when Congress last year failed to complete the budget process.


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