Bush to Double Iraq Spending
President Seeks $87 Billion More For Postwar Effort
By Dana Milbank and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 8, 2003; Page A01
President Bush, addressing the nation about the unexpectedly violent Iraq occupation, called last night for doubling the amount of money that already has been spent on the conflict and urged other countries to send more help.
In a televised speech to the nation, Bush said he will ask Congress for $87 billion in military and reconstruction spending for next year, significantly more than the range administration officials had given lawmakers. That brings to about $150 billion the amount the United States is spending on the Iraq war and its aftermath -- 50 percent more than officials had expected just a few months ago.
"This will take time, and require sacrifice," Bush said. "Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror."
The speech, while outlining what Bush called significant progress in the nearly six months since the invasion of Iraq began, was a stark acknowledgment that the occupation of that country has been more difficult and costly than anticipated. It was the first presidential address since May 1, when Bush, standing on an aircraft carrier, declared victory in "the battle of Iraq" and the end of major combat. With ongoing violence shaking public support for the operation, and foreign countries reluctant to relieve overtaxed U.S. troops in Iraq, Bush delivered a more sober message last night, appealing for sacrifice at home and assistance from abroad.
"I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power," Bush said last night, days after his administration, in a policy reversal, said it would ask the United Nations to sanction a multinational force in Iraq. "Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation."
Administration and congressional officials said the huge spending request would send an unmistakable signal that the United States would not be cowed by attacks on U.S. troops and other targets in Iraq aimed at undermining the occupation. Speaking four days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush said the war on terrorism that began with those attacks could not be won without success in Iraq.
"Iraq is now the central front," he said in a 18-minute address from the Cabinet Room of the White House. "Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be defeated."
About $75 billion of the $87 billion request, for the fiscal year beginning next month, is related to Iraq. That is on top of $79 billion Congress approved, mostly for Iraq, in a similar measure for the current year after the war began in April. The administration also hopes to get an additional $30 billion to $55 billion for the effort from other countries and Iraqi oil revenue over the next year.
The large amount of the request -- the 1991 Persian Gulf War, by contrast, cost $82.5 billion in current dollars, of which the United States paid only $9 billion -- shocked some lawmakers. If approved, it would increase the federal budget deficit for 2004 to $562 billion from the $475 billion the White House had projected this summer without considering the war costs. The White House is now in danger of violating its own limit for budget deficits -- 5 percent of gross domestic product, or $600 billion.
Bush's fellow Republicans, who control the House and Senate, said they believe his request will pass. "We'll expedite it aggressively," House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) said. "They're running out of money."
Some lawmakers said they will use hearings in coming weeks to question administration officials about exactly where the money will go, whether Bush has an exit strategy and what he plans for future years. Still, "we'll swallow hard and fight to pass it," a House Republican leadership aide said.
White House officials had told congressional leaders just days ago that the package was likely to total between $60 billion and $70 billion, in part because the administration was considering asking for the money in pieces or for shorter periods of time.
Concerned that it would be more difficult if Bush took a piecemeal approach and came back to Congress for more money before next year's election, congressional leaders told Bush during a White House meeting last week that, as Young put it, "it would be wise to decide how much he was going to need for the long run and ask for it all at once rather than nickel and diming."
Democratic presidential candidates, who have routinely criticized Bush for putting inadequate resources into Iraq, continued their objections last night. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Bush "offered glowing rhetoric but few specifics on how we will erase the mismanagement of this administration in Iraq."
When the administration made its request for the current year in April, it asked for only $2.5 billion for "Iraq relief and reconstruction" and said it expected "substantial international participation." The White House said in announcing that request that it expected "significant withdrawal or redeployment of troops out of the region well within the six-month period." There are now about 180,000 U.S. military personnel in the region, fewer than the 250,000 who were there during the war but substantially more than early estimates for the occupation.
In addition to the $66 billion for the Pentagon, $20 billion of Bush's request is for reconstruction in Iraq and $800 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan, administration officials said. Administration officials said that they estimate Iraq's reconstruction needs will total $50 billion to $75 billion next year, and that the United States will seek the rest from other countries, international financial institutions and Iraqi revenue. The administration said it is projecting that Iraqi oil revenue will yield approximately $15 billion over the coming year and continue to grow thereafter.
The military portion of the budget includes $51 billion for Iraq, $11 billion for Afghanistan, $2.2 billion to support reserve mobilization, $1.4 billion to support other nations contributing troops, and $200 million for operations in the Horn of Africa, Capitol Hill sources said. The Iraq reconstruction budget consists of $5 billion for security, including border guards, customs and training a new army; and $15 billion for infrastructure, including water, electricity and transportation needs.
The president made no mention last night of the fiscal constraints, portraying the spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan as crucial to national security. "This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore to our own security," he said. As he has previously, Bush was careful last night to put the Iraq conflict in the context of the larger war on terror. He did not mention the hunt for Osama bin Laden or Hussein, or the so-far unsuccessful effort to find prohibited weapons in Iraq. But, he said, terrorists "know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator. And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country into chaos."
Even as he solicited more foreign help and much more funding than was expected, Bush said U.S. troops are making clear progress, killing or capturing 42 of the 55 most-wanted leaders of the former Hussein government. And, addressing criticism that the U.S. troop level is too low, he said, "Military commanders in Iraq advise me that the current number of American troops -- nearly 130,000 -- is appropriate to their mission."
Still, a moment later, Bush said that those same commanders "have requested a third multinational division to serve in Iraq."
Two members of Bush's national security team appeared on the Sunday talk shows before his speech to emphasize the administration view that the Iraq conflict and the war on terror are one and the same. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on "Fox News Sunday" that al Qaeda "will have been dealt a mortal blow" if Iraq becomes stable and prosperous.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he estimated that even if a resolution passes, only 10,000 to 15,000 more troops might be made available from other countries. "We are not expecting this new resolution to cause a large number of additional troops to be added from the international community," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
That admission points to serious potential deployment problems for the U.S. military. A study released last week by the Congressional Budget Office found that the Army lacks sufficient active-duty forces to maintain its current troop level in Iraq beyond next spring.
L. Paul Bremer, the coordinator of the U.S.-led occupation, wrote in an opinion piece in today's Washington Post saying that elections "are simply not possible" in Iraq now because there is no election law or electoral system. But in a message aimed partly at members of the U.N. Security Council, he said that "No thoughtful person would suggest that the coalition should govern Iraq for long," and that the Iraqi people, "with the full support of the administration and its coalition partners, are on the way to exercising full political sovereignty."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company