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Questions Raised About Veracity of Iraq, Afghanistan War Funding
By Jason Leopold, The Public Record
Since 2006, Democrats in both Houses have continuously approved hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq war funding despite being advised repeatedly by congressional investigators that the Pentagon has been unable to justify some of the increased spending, according to the most recent report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Last week, a $162 billion emergency supplemental war appropriations bill sailed through the House by a vote of 268-155 and won support from Democrats largely as a result of the tens of billions of dollars in domestic spending attached to the legislation, including an extension of unemployment insurance, and funding for a new GI Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The Senate is expected to approve the bill within the next week and it’s expected to be immediately signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The CRS report, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Since 9/11," was published May 30 but has not been released publicly. The report raises numerous questions about the Defense Department’s accounting methods used to explain the skyrocketing costs behind the occupation of Iraq and says a lack of transparency makes it difficult to know whether money is being spent appropriately.
For instance, the report says more than 90 percent of Pentagon funds to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were provided as “emergency funds in supplemental or additional appropriations,” which is exempt from ceilings “applying to discretionary spending in Congress’s annual budget resolutions.”
“Some members [of Congress] have argued that continuing to fund ongoing operations in supplementals reduces congressional oversight,” the report says. “Generally, much of foreign and diplomatic funding has been funded in regular rather than emergency appropriations.”
The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and CRS “have all testified to Congress about the limited transparency in DOD’ war cost estimating and reporting,” the report says.
“While DOD has provided considerably more justification material for its war cost requests beginning with the [fiscal year] 2007 Supplemental, many questions remain difficult to answer — such as the effect of changes in troop levels on costs — and there continue to be unexplained
discrepancies in DOD’s war cost reports.”
At least a half-dozen reports have been issued on Iraq and Afghanistan war funding since Democrats regained control of Congress in November 2006, all of which called into question whether the Pentagon had provided Congress with an accurate picture of its costs for the so-called Global War on Terror. The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have reached more than $12.3 billion a month--$9 billion of which has been is being spent in Iraq—more than double what it costs to fund both wars in 2004. It costs taxpayers $390,000 annually in Iraq alone to fund a single soldier sent to the region. In total, Congress has appropriated about $700 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, $524 billion of which was earmarked for Iraq. The figures include equipment, pay, and medical costs paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The CRS report says its figures differ somewhat from the Pentagon’s figures because some expenses have not been reported by the department.
“Although these figures capture DOD’s contractual obligations for pay, goods, and services, they do not give a complete picture because they do not capture all appropriated funds or all funds obligated. DOD acknowledges that these figures do not capture over $35 billion in classified activities,” the report says. “The total cost for all three operations — Iraq, Afghanistan, and other GWOT and enhanced security — has risen steeply since the 9/11 attacks primarily because of higher DOD spending in Iraq. Annual DOD funding are growing by an additional 75% between FY2004 and FY2007. The level in FY2008 [is] 160% higher or more than one-and-one-half times larger than FY2004.”
“Although some of the factors behind the rapid increase in [Department of Defense] funding are known — the growing intensity of operations, additional force protection gear and equipment, substantial upgrades of equipment, converting units to modular configurations, and new funding to train and equip Iraqi security forces — these elements do not appear to be enough to explain the size of and continuation of increases. Although DOD included more extensive justification of its FY2007 and FY2008 supplemental requests, it still provides little explanation of how changes in force levels would affect funding levels,” the CRS report says.
Despite public statements by numerous Democrats over the past 18 months about its intent to scrutinize spending in Iraq and Afghanistan Congress has given the Defense Department more than $300 billion in the form of emergency appropriations without examining how previous funds were spent.
Moreover, the CRS report says that the Bush administration has consistently failed to provide Congress with “long-term estimates of costs despite a statutory reporting requirement that the President submit a cost estimate for FY2006-FY2011 that was enacted in 2004.”
Additionally, the report says some of the funds the Pentagon asked for may not fall into the urgent needs category covered by the emergency supplemental.
“Some observers have questioned whether all of DOD’s war-related procurement reflects the stresses of war,” the report said. “For example, a recent CBO study found that more than 40% of the Army’s spending for reset — the repair and replacement of war-worn equipment — was not for replacing lost equipment or repairing equipment sent home. Instead, Army funds were spent to upgrade systems to increase capability, to buy equipment to eliminate longstanding shortfalls in inventory, to convert new units to a modular configuration, and to replace equipment stored overseas for contingencies.”
“War-justified procurement requests have increased substantially in recent years from $20.4 billion in FY2006 to $39.7 billion in FY2007 and $64.0 billion in FY2008. Although some of this increase may reflect additional force protection and replacement of “stressed” equipment, much may be in response to ...new guidance to fund requirements for the “longer war” rather than DOD’s traditional definition of war costs as strictly related to immediate war needs. For example, the Navy initially requested $450 million for six EA-18G aircraft, a new electronic warfare version of the F-18, and the Air Force $389 million for two Joint Strike Fighters, an aircraft just entering production; such new aircraft would not be delivered for about three years and so could not be used meet immediate war needs. Other new aircraft in DOD’s supplemental request include CV-22 Ospreys and C-130J aircraft. In its March amendment to the FY2007 Supplemental, the Administration withdrew several of these requests, possibly in anticipation that Congress would cut these aircraft,” the report added.
A Pentagon spokesman said he was unfamiliar with the report and declined to comment.
Although the House bill passed last week funds the occupation of Iraq well into 20008, tracking future costs of both wars have proved troubling, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), because the Pentagon has not provided Congress with detailed information on costs incurred thus far.