The White House plans to ask for an additional $50 billion to fund the troop “surge” in Iraq. That may seem like peanuts when you consider the $607 billion in annual Defense Department and Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental funds, but it’s a sign that the administration is politically confident it can extend the surge through next spring. Plus, it’s money that could be used for something silly, like building schools.
The request—which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.
The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing the two officials argue that there are promising developments in Iraq but that they need more time to solidify the progress they have made, a congressional aide said.
Most of the additional funding in a revised supplemental bill would pay for the current counteroffensive in Iraq, which has expanded the U.S. force there by about 28,000 troops, to about 160,000. The cost of the buildup was not included in the proposed 2008 budget because Pentagon officials said they did not know how long the troop increase would last. The decision to seek about $50 billion more appears to reflect the view in the administration that the counteroffensive will last into the spring of 2008 and will not be shortened by Congress.