Mission funding placed on hold until elections

Freedom Newspapers

en. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Tuesday he was simply describing the possible consequences of a possible shortfall or delay in funding next year for the U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The general was not questioning the judgment of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or the administration. Perish the thought.
Well, maybe it’s not quite so straightforward. As Cato Institute vice president for defense and foreign policy Ted Carpenter said, “The chiefs are clearly trying to head off civilians in the administration who want the military just to suck it up and maybe scrimp a little until after the election.”
It would be nice if they were also trying to deliver the message that the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are ill-defined, but the major concern seems to be money flowing without interruption.
It’s not an insignificant amount. The administration, with the president wanting to appear as at least something of a fiscal conservative in an election year, didn’t ask in its $407 billion defense budget request for fiscal 2005 for everything it will want to spend. It has assured the military it will ask for a supplemental appropriation — estimated anywhere from $50 billion to $70 billion — next January.
The military is concerned it will run out of money for Iraq and Afghanistan before then, and will have to borrow against other projects, which gets complicated and introduces distortions.
The military leaders — three of the four service chiefs of staff testified to their concern — have a point. Supplemental appropriations are supposed to be for extraordinary and unexpected expenses. But the administration expects we’ll be in Iraq at least through next year, and more than likely through fiscal 2006. That’s an ongoing, anticipated expense. An honest budget estimate would have included in this year’s proposal the $50 billion to $70 billion the government knows it must spend.
But this is an election year, and during elections honesty — especially about the kind of commitments you’ve made for the taxpayers to pay for — is seldom in excess supply.