Pentagon projects $30 billion cost for Afghan war
WASHINGTON (AP) — The war in Afghanistan and Pentagon efforts to bolster security at home will cost a projected $30 billion this year, far more than Congress has provided, according to Defense Department documents obtained by The Associated Press.
President Bush and Congress have given the Pentagon $17.4 billion for the war and the domestic fight against terrorism this fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30. Other federal agencies have gotten billions more.
The Defense Department estimate means that it believes it could need an additional $12.6 billion over the next seven months for its operations in the United States, Afghanistan or wherever it may be combating terrorists.
“If operations continue to accrue as experienced to date, available funding will be exhausted by April or May,” the 50-page report says.
Bush is expected to ask lawmakers in March for extra money for the conflict in Afghanistan and efforts to improve domestic security, including at airports. The price tag is expected to run into the billions of dollars.
The White House budget office has not made a final decision about how much the administration will request for the Pentagon and other agencies. Even so, the figure represents a first glimpse of the magnitude of expenses that Defense Department officials believe they are facing.
“We’re still working on the requests, and we will submit the information to Congress when we’re ready,” said Amy Call, spokeswoman for the White House budget office.
Members of both parties have been strongly supportive of the Afghanistan conflict and efforts to improve domestic security, but have clashed over spending. Some Democrats have begun to raise questions about details of the conflict and have said they will demand answers when the administration issues its request for more money.
“Before administration officials ask for billions of dollars in additional money this year, I expect them to tell Congress where we are headed in this war and what exit strategy is envisioned in Afghanistan,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
At Bush’s urging, congressional Republicans defeated efforts by Byrd and other Democrats last December to provide billions more than the president wanted for anti-terror efforts. In the end, Congress provided more than Bush proposed for domestic security efforts but nearly $4 billion less than he wanted for defense.
The report, used in briefings for lawmakers and White House budget officials, assumes that activity levels as of Jan. 31 will continue through the year in Afghanistan and at home. Actual spending would change if operations intensify or are reduced.
According to the paper, of the $17.4 billion provided to the Pentagon, $11.9 billion had been spent or committed to contracts as of Jan. 31.
That includes about $5.3 billion for Enduring Freedom, the military’s name for the Afghanistan operation. Another $5 billion has been spent for Pentagon activities at home, including $1.9 billion to mobilize thousands of National Guard and Reserve troops and $503 million for combat air patrols over some major U.S. cities.
Through Jan. 25, the report says, other costs include $61 million for humanitarian supplies; $19 million for the costs of holding al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and $100 million for a murky category called “additional security assistance and defense cooperation expenses.”
Not included in the estimates is the cost of replacing the 18,000 bombs and missiles that have been used to date in the war. Replacing munitions used in the first six months of fighting in Afghanistan will cost an estimated $1.1 billion, said a Defense Department official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush has requested a $379 billion Pentagon budget for the coming fiscal year, $48 billion more than it is receiving this year.