Deputy Defense secretary warns of 'substantial' supplemental request

By Amy Klamper, CongressDaily

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told senators Thursday they can expect a "substantial request for supplemental funding in fiscal 2006," in addition to the anticipated $100 billion in supplemental funds the Defense Department will receive in fiscal 2005.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Wolfowitz said the Bush administration is already planning to fund fiscal 2006 expenditures for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through another supplemental package later this year. He would not put a dollar figure on the fiscal 2006 supplemental, saying to do so "would be a wild guess at this point."

Pressed by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Wolfowitz agreed that the administration's plan to maintain 135,000 troops in Iraq through the end of 2006 would cost roughly $50 billion. Wolfowitz said that at roughly $4 billion a month the tab for keeping forces longer in Iraq is worthwhile if it means that Iraqi forces can be trained more quickly to safeguard their national security.

Last summer, lawmakers approved a $25 billion "bridge" appropriation to cover mounting costs in Iraq until the Pentagon receives an anticipated $75 billion in supplemental funding this year. The White House is expected to deliver that fiscal 2005 supplemental spending request soon after it submits its fiscal 2006 budget Monday. The Pentagon is not expected to build any costs associated with military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into its fiscal 2006 budget, despite critics' assertions that the monthly cost of the two wars should be included in the base budget.

Wolfowitz said the Pentagon will budget for a congressionally mandated increase in Army and Marine Corps manpower enacted last year, beginning in its fiscal 2007 budget request. He said the figures will be visible in five-year projections that will accompany the fiscal 2006 budget request.

"We've had to make some very considerable adjustments in the rest of the defense program to pay for that," he said, alluding to potential cuts to other Army programs, including efforts to modernize the force. Wolfowitz said the Defense Department will pay for the addition of 30,000 soldiers and 9,000 Marines over the next several years with supplemental funds until then.

"The only prudent thing at this point is to plan for that as a permanent change," he said, adding that "whether this increase will be the right one" is something that the Pentagon will address in its forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, an internal strategic plan completed every four years.