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March 13, 2007

The Great Budgetary Opportunity
Posted by Gordon Adams

The emergency funding for the Global War on Terror – that $100 b. bill the administration sent Congress in February is growing and mutating before our eyes.  In the House, it is now a $124 b. bill.

As Congress begins to move the fiscal year 2007 emergency supplemental bill for the global war on terror, it is worth observing the game being played between the Hill and the White House.  There is much to be learned.

The budgetary principal seemed clear: emergency bills should be for emergency needs – things that were not anticipated in advance and are urgently needed.

The administration has violated this principle ever since they began asking for emergency money.  Much of the emergency funding has, understandably, supported the war efforts in Afghanistan and, especially Iraq.   But the opportunity could not be resisted. 

Emergency funds have already been used to begin the long-term restructuring of the Army into modular brigades.  After two years of this, these restructuring funds were put in the regular base budget.  That was until this new FY 2007 emergency opportunity arose, when the Army threw back in another $3.6 b. for “modularity,” though they had said they would not.

Then there was the opportunity to expand the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, an expansion that could only be useful around 2011-12, certainly not to relieve force stress in Iraq.  But in went $4.9 b. to cover the pay for an increased force (and $1.7 b. to add on their equipment).

Emergency funds have also been used in prior years to buy more aircraft, refit more Abrams tanks, buy more Bradley armored personnel carriers.  While it is certainly true that equipment is being used heavily in Iraq and some of it being lost, the lead times on new equipment go well past the utility of deployment in the Gulf, making this a more normal replacement cycle than an emergency. 

Yet, the administration’s new emergency request for this year sought more than $25 b. in equipment, including one V-22 aircraft ($146 m.), two F-35 joint strike fighters ($389 m.), five C-130J cargo planes ($388 m.), and five E/A-18G electronic warfare aircraft ($450 m.).  Not to speak of the $1.6 b. for the Army’s Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, $573 m. for the Family of Heavy Tactical vehicles, and $530 m. to support the production base for the Bradley fighting vehicle. 

All this when, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Army has trouble tracking equipment cost for this replacement (and expansion) program it calls “reset.”

Some of these requirements turned out not to be so urgent, after all.  When it came time this month to ask for extra funding to support the Iraqi surge, rather than run up to Congress with a request for an additional $3.1 b., the Defense Department agreed to fall on its sword, and proposed taking out some of the offending items, notably the V-22s, F-35s, and C-130Js, and F/A-18Gs and use the fiscal space this created to add in funds to send another brigade to Afghanistan, and another 4,000 soldiers to Iraq, beyond the 21,500 supported in the original bill.  But a lot of the non-emergency funding remains in the bill, notably the Army’s vehicles and Bradley funding, as well as the modularity and force expansion funds. 

At the same time, Congress is using the emergency request to gather a majority for proposals that would lead to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.  This bill is the horse that will carry that Democratic proposal.  Getting enough votes for withdrawal was not only a question of language, but one of money, as well.   Some of the proposed additions fit with the emergency context, like $1.1 b. more for Army operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $2.5 b. to support readiness programs for troops still in the United States, and more than $1.7 b. to expand treatment for war veterans returning home.  In addition, other domestic programs will be funded in significant amounts in the eventual bill to encourage political support for the bill.

At the same time, the appropriators have not resisted the opportunity to include defense items that bear a questionable relationship to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The House appropriators have recommended $2.3 b. for the questionable effort to expand the overall size of the Army and Marines by 45,000.  They have left untouched funding for Abrams tank upgrades, tactical trucks and Bradley fighting vehicles, as well as the funding for the V-22 and C-130Js.  And they left in one of the EA-18G surveillance planes and added $192 m. for three additional EA-18E/F planes.

It seems that neither the administration, nor the Congress, can fully resist the opportunity and “emergency” provides to pay for things that might better be considered in the base budget request for the Department of Defense.  The resulting bill could have the effect of curbing the Iraq policy at the cost of expanding fiscal blood-letting at home.


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To add a footnote to the post. The Democrats have added more than $20 b. to the administration's emergency bill, largely to gather a broader range of votes. The add-ons include $4.3 b. for agricultural disaster relief, $2.9 b. for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, $2.5 b. for homeland security, $1 b. for pandemic flu preparedness, and $735 m. for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. All good things; do they belong on an emergency supplemental or in a good budget donneybrook with the administration?

I too have been impressed by the absence of any administration official, Senator or Congressman willing to serve as a gatekeeper, not so much with respect to substance but rather with respect to process.

Some of the substance, like the V-22, is really bad; we were well into our second war with Iraq before armed Iraqis managed to kill as many Marines as that damned airplance has, and it's still not deployable there. The point that I fear most of the public does not understand is that it is much harder for anyone in Washington to challenge bad substance if the legislative process is accelerated. The way you accelerate process in Congress is by cutting people out, and doing these yearly supplementals shuts out everyone who isn't on the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.

This is piled on top of the normal yearly appropriations process, which has tended to marginalize authorizing committees already. At least under the yearly appropriations the administration has to submit a budget, and justifications for the major items it wants to spend money on. This doesn't guarantee Congressional opposition to bad spending, but it does provide the opportunity for it. With the supplementals even that opportunity is gone.

Please Call Congress Now: No More Money for War!
The House Appropriations Committee is taking up the "Supplemental" spending bill for the war at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Whatever comes out of that committee will go to the full House for a vote. Call 202-224-3121 today and ask for your congress member's office. Or find their number:

Ask your Congress member to demand a floor vote on Barbara Lee's amendment to the "Supplemental" for a "fully funded withdrawal" - and to vote YES on that Amendment. Lee's amendment would require all Iraq war funding be spent on a safe withdrawal by the end of this year. Ask your representative to announce they will vote NO on the Supplemental unless Lee's amendment passes.

We did not elect a Democratic majority to spend another $93 billion for the Iraq War and Occupation. Items added to the bill (help for veterans, Katrina victims, farmers, etc.) all can and should be passed separately and cannot justify a vote to fund the war. Tell your member to support and vote for the Lee Amendment to fully fund a safe, orderly withdrawal from Iraq. (Thanks to
Don't let this become the Democrats' War

That's the headline of PDA's hard-hitting news release issued today. But before reading it, take action: If you haven't contacted your Congress members to support the Lee Amendment for fully-funded withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2007, please do that now. Call (and get others to call) Congress at 1-202-224-3121 or toll-free 1-888-851-1879. Despite the voters' mandate last November to change course, Democratic leaders in Congress seem bent on facilitating and funding President Bush's deepening war in Iraq. Democrats should vote no on the loophole-ridden supplemental bill that would prolong the disastrous and counter-productive occupation of Iraq. [read more] (Thanks to Progressive Democrats of America)
Is your congress member on this list? Members who need to hear from you now!
Please contact these House members and ask them to vote for Rep. Barbara Lee's Amendment to the Appropriations Bill: Loebsack, McDermott, Holt, Frank, Payne, Cummings, Watt, Davis (IL), Carson, Capuano, Hare, Welch, Kilpatrick, Gutierrez, Jackson, Tubbs-Jones, Farr, and Schakowsky.

Is your congress member on the House Appropriations Committee? - write and call them to demand they support Rep. Barbara Lee's Amendment:

Democrats David R. Obey, Wisconsin, Chair | John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania | Norman D. Dicks, Washington | Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia | Marcy Kaptur, Ohio | Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana | Nita M. Lowey, New York | José E. Serrano, New York | Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut | James P. Moran, Virginia | John W. Olver, Massachusetts | Ed Pastor, Arizona | David E. Price, North Carolina | Chet Edwards, Texas | Robert E. "Bud" Cramer, Jr., Alabama | Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island | Maurice D. Hinchey, New York | Lucille Roybal-Allard, California | Sam Farr, California | Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Illinois | Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, Michigan | Allen Boyd, Florida | Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania | Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey | Sanford Bishop, Georgia | Marion Berry, Arkansas | Barbara Lee, California | Tom Udall, New Mexico | Adam Schiff, California | Michael Honda, California | Betty McCollum, Minnesota | Steve Israel, New York | Tim Ryan, Ohio | C.A "Dutch" Ruppersberger, Maryland | Ben Chandler, Kentucky | Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida | Ciro Rodriguez, Texas

Republicans: Jerry Lewis, California, Ranking Member | C.W. Bill Young, Florida | Ralph Regula, Ohio | Harold Rogers, Kentucky | Frank R. Wolf, Virginia | James T. Walsh, New York | David L. Hobson, Ohio | Joe Knollenberg, Michigan | Jack Kingston, Georgia | Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, New Jersey | Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi | Todd Tiahrt, Kansas | Zach Wamp, Tennessee | Tom Latham, Iowa | Robert B.Aderholt, Alabama | Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri | Kay Granger, Texas | John E. Peterson, Pennsylvania | Virgil H. Goode, Jr., Virginia | John T. Doolittle, California | Ray LaHood, Illinois | Dave Weldon, Florida | Michael K. Simpson, Idaho | John Abney Culberson, Texas | Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois | Ander Crenshaw, Florida | Dennis R. Rehberg, Montana | John Carter, Texas | Rodney Alexander, Louisiana

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