WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI)
President George W. Bush will ask Congress for $74.7 billion in a supplemental appropriations request to pay operational, humanitarian and homeland security costs associated with the war in Iraq, according to a senior administration official.
The president is expected to talk about his war budget on Tuesday at the Pentagon as the Iraqi conflict enters its sixth full day.
Bush signed off Monday on the budget request that includes $53 billion for operational activities such as moving troops into the region, returning them home, and replenishing supplies and munitions.
Another $8 billion would go towards international operations and aid to countries such as Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Columbia. Of that figure $3.5 billion would pay for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and repairs to damaged oil fields.
Turkey would get $1 billion in aid, far less than the reported $60 billion it would have received had it allowed some 62,000 U.S. troops to be deployed along its borders.
The request would also set aside $2 billion for homeland security in states and localities. The monies would be given to states in the form of grants provided they meet two conditions: they are committed to protecting specified sites and spend the funds on anti-terror activities.
Another $1.5 billion would be spent on additional security at federal facilities and for the Coast Guard protection of critical U.S. ports. The Federal Bureau of Investigation would receive $500 million.
The senior administration official said the cost estimates were based on six months of military activity in the region, but said that beyond that “we just don’t know.”
Bush told congressional leaders on Monday that he would like to see the supplemental budget approved by no later than April 11. The president met with lawmakers late Monday afternoon in a session in which the senior administration official described members of Congress as “unexpectedly inquisitive” about the proposal.
“It was a great exchange. All of the questions were perceptive and in the spirit of cooperation, the spirit of addressing this problem quickly,” the senior administration official told reporters.
“We hope that Congress will also find it adequate, and move it quickly at the size we proposed,” the official said.
The request has no money set aside for the cash-strapped airline industry. Some airlines have said a prolonged war could force them out of business or into bankruptcy.
The White House had been tightlipped over how much it planned to ask for saying it that the buildup of military forces in the region and the actual engagement in combat incurs additional costs above and beyond what the administration has budgeted. Speculation had the price tag for the war at between $70 billion and $90 billion.
Democrats had criticized the administration for deciding not to release a war budget before hostilities began last week. They also said that a war would push the country further into federal deficit spending. Administration officials predict the federal deficit this year will reach $316 billion and approach $400 billion in 2004.
A senior administration official told reporters that the first few days of the war gave budget analysts a better picture of which scenario the Pentagon and the White House would seek to fund. It had considered different funding structures dependent on whether U.S. forces met resistance, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein left the country or if service personnel would be forced into prolonged armed conflict.
It would have cost taxpayers $5 billion a month to have troops sitting in the region as containment measure, the official said. The Pentagon has already spent more than $2.5 billion deploying more than 150,000 troops to the region. The Afghan conflict costs roughly $1.5 billion a month.
“The president’s approach is that the money in the supplemental needs to be appropriate for the ongoing operational mission, as well as for the costs that have been incurred to date to lead up to this mission,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters Monday.