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Air Force needs war money

John Dimsdale Oct 31, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: There might have been some actual trick or treating going on at the Pentagon today. But the real fright came courtesy of the United States Air Force. The flyboys aired an eye-popping new budget request for the war on terror. Almost $67.5 billion in extra money for this fiscal year and next. The Army’s already asked for another $80 billion this year.

All of that on top of $70 billion already OK’d by Congress for the war on terror this year. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports from Washington the Pentagon’s latest emergency budget request will probably be a hard sell on Capitol Hill.

JOHN DIMSDALE: The Air Force request is prompted in part by an invitation from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to think more expansively about the overall costs of waging the war on terror. Military budget analyst Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute says it’s also a more honest accounting.

LOREN THOMPSON: One of the ways in which the Bush administration has not been entirely straightforward about the costs of the Iraq war is the overhang of equipment repair and personnel burdens that are going to have to be covered going forward. Even after we get out of Iraq. And when the Congress and the public see what the full bill is, they’re going to be shocked.

The Pentagon may make the emergency request even though Congress has specifically asked that future war funding be considered as part of the regular budget process.

GORDON ADAMS: It sounds to me like the budgeting system in the Pentagon has completely lost its moorings.

Gordon Adams is a former national security budget official now at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

ADAMS: In prior wars, particularly Vietnam and Korea, after the first year or two of war funding, all the war funding itself has been cycled into the regular budget request. We’ve got an extraordinarily unusual, atypical situation here, and the services are engaged in a kind of feeding frenzy.

So far Congress has approved 13 emergency spending requests for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for a total of $507 billion.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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