June 27th, 2006 11:33 EST
Top Priority Behind War Funding: Ensure U.S. Troops Succeed By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2006 – The highest priority in funding the global war on terror is to ensure that the military members fighting it have all they need to win, a senior defense official told Pentagon reporters today.
"This country is committed to making sure the men and women that are out there fighting this war are going to have the resources they need to be successful," said Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
The Defense Department has obligated $295 billion for the war on terror from Sept. 11, 2001, through March 2006, Whitman said.
Those costs can be broken down into three major operations, he explained. The bulk of the expenditure, $210 billion, has funded Operation Iraqi Freedom. Another $57 billion has gone to Operation Enduring Freedom, most of it for activities in Afghanistan; and $28 billion for Operation Noble Eagle, the homeland defense mission.
Current costs for these efforts amount to about $7 billion a month. Of this monthly cost, activities in Iraq are costing about $6 billion and in Afghanistan and in other locations that make up Operation Enduring Freedom, about $1 billion, he said. Whitman noted that the cost of activities in Afghanistan is up slightly, from $900 million a month, due to the increased pace of operations there.
Costs in funding the terror war are "somewhat unpredictable," because they are based not only on the pace of operations, but also on conditions on the ground, he said. "It's a dynamic and evolving environment," he said.
Warfighting costs are largely misunderstood by the American people, many of whom don't realize that there's no way to fund contingency operations within the normal defense budget, Army Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, explained.
"That means that every time we fight a war, we have to have a supplemental (budget request)," he said. But as the United States fights its first protracted war since Vietnam, the public tends to perceive supplemental budget requests as "out of the ordinary," Maka said.
Congress approved $66.6 billion in supplemental appropriations June 15 to cover the incremental costs of fighting the global war on terror. The amount was about $100 million less than what President Bush requested through the fiscal 2006 supplemental budget request.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in urging Congress in mid-May to pass both the supplemental measure and the fiscal 2007 budget requests, noted that U.S. troops serving in the war on terror are giving their all and deserve everything the country can give them to help them succeed.
"The troops have done everything that's been asked of them, and they've done so with courage," Rumsfeld told members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee during his May 17 testimony. "And we owe it to them and to the country that they have sworn to protect to see that we provide the resources and the capabilities that will not only win today's wars, but also best assure peace in the decades ahead."
Whitman offered his comments as Congress debates Bush's fiscal 2006 supplemental budget request that includes $72.4 billion for the ongoing military, diplomatic and intelligence operations in the global war on terrorism.