Bush Administration Submits War Cost Estimate

July 7, 2008 - 8:29 PM

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush has asked Congress for an extra $74.7 billion this year to pay for the war in Iraq.

Most of the money ($63 billion) would go towards prosecuting the war, with $8 billion earmarked for international aid, relief, and reconstruction, and $4 billion for homeland security.

The cost estimate assumes that the conflict will last a month in total, with an additional six months for "stabilization" and withdrawal. The supplemental request only applies to fiscal year 2003, which ends in October. The cost in future years is not part of the administration's estimate.

Currently, the Defense Department is tapping into its regular fiscal year 2003 funds for equipment and troop mobilization and deployment, incurring over $2.6 billion by mid-March, according to the Congressional Research Service.

According to a senior administration official, the new spending will drive up the 2003 deficit to nearly $400 billion. But, said the official, the cost of doing nothing to remove
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power would have been far greater.

While debating the president's budget and tax cuts this year, congressional Democrats and even some members of the president's own party have grown increasingly frustrated with the administration for not providing estimates of the war cost.

The Congressional Budget Office had estimated the cost of the war alone-just one month of fighting-at $33 billion.

Keith Ashdown of the Taxpayer for Common Sense calls the president's $74.7 billion request "an expensive down-payment." The politically moderate group just issued its own cost estimate for the war and reconstruction, concluding that it's likely to cost $110 billion this year and could exceed $550 billion over the next decade.

Like the administration, the Taxpayer for Common Sense report assumes a month-long war. But its estimate goes further than the administration estimate for reconstruction and withdrawal and assumes an additional eight months of such post-war activities.

The most important thing for the president and Congress to do now, Ashdown says, is secure commitments from other countries to help pay for part of the rebuilding and occupation. "You need to get them involved early," said Ashdown, "so they feel like they have a vested interest to pay a share of the total long term cost of bringing democracy to Iraq. If you come to them at the last minute, they're going to say no."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he hoped to get the supplemental spending bill through the appropriations committee and to the president's desk "as quickly as possible."

The senior administration official said the president is hoping to get the spending approved before Congress recesses for Easter on April 11.

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said mayors welcome the extra cash infusion but want more.

"The proposal funnels money through state houses, which is an inefficient way to get desperately needed funding to our local police, fire and emergency medical personnel quickly," said Menino.