Asking for more funds to continue fight

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL:
Tomorrow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is headed to Capitol Hill, and he's expected to ask Congress for even more money for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until this week, the administration was estimating the bill for funding the wars next year would come to about $150 billion.

Well, that tab just went up -- Gates will ask for an additional $50 billion to keep the U.S. in these fights. Marketplace's Steve Henn has this look at some of the details.


STEVE HENN: Some of the biggest winners in the presidents' war budget are the makers of so-called MRAPS. These are huge trucks that feature blast-resistant armor and V-shaped hulls. They're better able to withstand roadside bombs than armored Humvees -- but they aren't cheap.

Winslow Wheeler follows the military at Center for Defense Information.

WINSLOW WHEELER: They're extraordinarily expensive. Costs are between anywhere from $750,000 to $1.2 million per vehicle -- that's a lot of money for the functional equivalent of a jeep.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will go before Congress tomorrow, and is expected to ask Congress for an additional $17 billion for these trucks. John Pike, who follows defense and intelligence issues at GlobalSecurity.org, says this investment is overdue.

JOHN PIKE: Roughly half the Americans that have been killed in Iraq have been killed with roadside bombs.

The real question, according to Pike, is why it's taken the Pentagon and Congress so long to increase protections for the troops facing roadside bombs. Wheeler says until recently, most congressional appropriators were focused on earmarks for heavily armored Humvees... and a few other things:

WHEELER: They were also busy adding earmarks for things that have nothing to do with the war, like the Bicentennial celebration for the Lewis and Clark expedition, for Memorial Day parades, for fisheries, for brown tree-snake eradication programs...

But now, heavily armored trucks are all the rage. And Wheeler says he'd expects congress to end up spending billions more on so-called MRAPS than the Bush administration is asking for. I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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