Report Refutes "Urgency" of War Funding
Despite the Bush administration's warnings renewed Iraq funding is immediately necessary, a November Congressional
Research Service (CRS) report, obtained by Truthout, states preexisting funds can easily finance the war through
February, and probably beyond.
While the Army cites January as the deadline for replenishing funding for the "global war on terror," the CRS notes the
Department of Defense (DOD) could reasonably slow its "non-readiness-related spending," stretching money transferred
from the general defense budget to last another month.
The report, published on November 9, also indicates the DOD is not reporting all available war funds. It criticizes the
DOD's lack of transparency in accounting for war spending, stating the department failed to include about $45 billion in
remaining funds in its estimate of how much money is left to finance the war. The monies, left over from previous years'
defense budgets, "raise questions about whether additional funds are urgently needed," according to the CRS report.
These questions come as President Bush chastises Democrats for refusing to back his 2008 war supplemental spending
bill, which he calls an "emergency request."
"Although the administration classified both requests [for 2007 and 2008] as emergency funds, much of the funding would
not seem to meet the traditional definition of emergency - as an urgent and 'unforeseen, unpredictable, and
unanticipated,' need," the CRS report states.
The DOD's "incomplete" data-recording methods make it impossible to know exactly how much war money is left, and how
much has been used to fund undisclosed projects, according to the report.
The grounds were set for such a lack of disclosure: A year ago, the DOD changed its requirements for war supplemental
bills, allowing them to apply generally to the "longer war on terror" instead of specifically to the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and other targeted operations. This expansion of the funds' targets makes it easier to request large sums of
money without explaining what they will be used for.
"This new definition appeared to open the way for including a far broader range of requirements particularly since the
needs of the 'longer war' are relatively undefined," the report says.
The prospect of funding a "longer war" became more imminent last week, when President Bush announced an agreement to
negotiate a "long-term" occupation of Iraq, retaining around 50,000 troops on the ground indefinitely, according to
The DOD's change in war supplemental requirements also makes requests for projects beyond Iraq and Afghanistan fair
game, according to Matt Lewis, a fiscal policy analyst with OMB Watch.
"They're basically opening the floodgates, saying, 'request anything you want and we'll put it in the war
supplemental,'" Lewis said. "Now there's no pressure to separate the wheat from the chaff."
Since the CRS reports in previous years admonished the administration for the murkiness of its supplemental war
appropriations expenditures, allocations within the last two years' supplemental bills have been more clearly
delineated, according to the report.
However, the CRS report also notes using "emergency supplementals" may be in itself a misleading practice. A November 6
Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that by breaking up war monies into different accounts, the DOD
fuels mismanagement and unaccountability.
"If the administration believes the nation is engaged in a long-term conflict, the implications should be considered
during annual budget deliberations," the GAO stated. "Continuing to fund GWOT [global war on terror] through emergency
requests reduces transparency and avoids the necessary reexamination of commitments, investment priorities and
The GAO's findings mirror the Iraq Study Group's recommendation: "costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the
President's annual budget request, starting in FY 2008." Yet, war funding for 2008 was proposed as a supplemental.
The DOD's use of supplementals is a calculated maneuver to downplay the amount of money being poured into war
operations, according to Lewis.
"The White House and war supporters in Congress have made a deliberate effort to understate the cost of the war," Lewis
said. "They break it up into supplementals that are reported separately, and citizens don't tally up all those separate
numbers on their own."
The CRS report also notes funding the war through supplemental bills often means drawing from the baseline budget to
fund the war during the interims between supplementals, and those transfers are subject to very little oversight. The
practice allows the government to avoid disclosing how much of the budget is spent on war and how much is spent on
general military operations, making it practically impossible for the public to know how much war money is really left,
according to the report.
The CRS cites several examples of this behind-the-scenes use of the baseline budget. In 2002, the DOD drew $2.5 billion
from "an unidentified source (probably from DOD's baseline funds)" in preparation for the invasion of Iraq - before
Congress considered the resolution approving it. Also, the DOD typically does not include money that has been
transferred from the baseline budget in its estimates of past war expenditures.
Additionally, many of the DOD's expenditures within the supplemental bills have gone unexplained. The CRS report notes
war supplemental funding requests have been increasing steeply over the past few years, and a disproportionate amount of
funding has been allocated to procurement - purchasing new weapons. The DOD has not shown clearly where procurement
money is going. In fact, a recent Congressional Budget Office study concluded over 40 percent of procurement money
allocated to replace and repair equipment was being used for other purposes.
Lewis attributes some of that increased spending to the increasing use of private contractors in Iraq, many of whom are
paid much more than US military personnel.
Considering that approving more war funding is not the "emergency" the Bush administration portrays it to be, Congress
can safely challenge the war by denying the administration its supplemental, according to the CRS report. In fact,
cutting off funding is generally a "more effective" way to halt operations than are strategies unrelated to funding, the
A bill to add $50 billion to the war budget, on the condition of a partial troop withdrawal, is now making its way
through Congress. President Bush threatened to veto that bill. Congress responded that if he does so, he'll be denying
the troops much-needed funding. In light of the CRS report, Lewis said, Congress might do well to publicize the
non-urgency of war funds, instead of focusing on the approval of a $50 billion package.
"Not many people in Congress are really challenging the assumption that we need more funding," Lewis said. "Someone in
Congress requested this report. They should all be reading it."
is a reporter for Truthout.