Study Criticizes Bush Approach to War Funding, Calls for Changes
The piece, written by WP staff writer Ann Scott Tyson, tells of a report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) that criticizes the off-budget funding scheme employed by the Bush Administration and blames that approach for the sky-rocketing costs of the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh yes, they suggest that President Obama do a better job.
The war in Iraq alone has already cost more in inflation-adjusted dollars than every other U.S. war except World War II, the CSBA found.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, named by Obama to continue in that job, has made it clear that the incoming administration will scrutinize defense spending, which has mushroomed since 2001 as a result of the wars and related costs.
"There clearly is going to be very close scrutiny of the budget," Gates said this month, adding: "We need to take a very hard look at the way we go about acquisition and procurement."
The CSBA agreed and blamed the ballooning budgets on the Bush administration's unprecedented decision to fund the wars through giant emergency spending measures rather than through appropriations requests.
Wow! Aren’t we glad that we have such effective watchdog groups to figure this stuff out for us? Well here is something I wrote in February of 2005:
Why would the administration want to keep this spending off budget? Perhaps it is because having the money on budget would subject it to congressional oversight. By simply asking for and receiving a blank check from the congress and not having it rolled into the Pentagon budget, Bush and Co. are able to spend the money anyway they see fit with no strings attached. This part even has some republicans complaining about the overuse of the "supplemental" request. Of course that will not keep them for voting for the request. From a recent AP story on this subject, "There appears to be little doubt Bush will get his request. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said the panel will take up the measure in early March, with a House vote shortly thereafter. "It is my hope that we can have this important bill on the president's desk in early April," he said in a statement."
In fact the bill above was on Bush’s desk by April. Well, actually it was not the exact bill because, you see, it seems that this off-budget approach has also proven to be quite the cash cow for many members of Congress. As much as I despise George W. Bush for his deceit and lack of compassion, I think a true reading of the funding history here will prove that Congress also holds a particular level of blame for the ever-escalating costs. Again from the CSBA: (Emphasis TLS)
"The process has reduced the ability of Congress to exercise effective oversight. It has also tended to obscure the long-term costs and budgetary consequences of ongoing military operations," the report says. It also warns that such emergency bills have included "substantial amounts of funding for programs unrelated to the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."
And just what other items unrelated to the military operations were placed on the shoulders of our troops? Well let’s see, there was additional relief for hurricane victims and veterans and, oh yes, an increase in the federal minimum wage; all force fed by congressional Democrats. As a matter of fact, as recently as May of this year (2008) I was profoundly disappointed to watch the new “Democratic Majority” employ this tactic with the very deserving “New GI Bill” as their poster child.
In what seems to be another in a never-ending list of Democratic disappointments coming from Washington DC, it now appears that Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the so-called Democratic Leadership is preparing to shove another “Iraq Supplemental” down our throats. This time they are planning to coat the bitter pill with the very deserving “new GI Bill.” I first heard this on the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America on Tuesday when she was talking to Paul Rieckhoff, from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. What caught me off guard was the fact that Maddow, someone whose anti Iraq Occupation credentials have been beyond reproach simply accepted the statement from Rieckhoff and concluded the interview without comment on that strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are worthy of our national credit card. However there are proper places in the federal budget for these important issues and simply placing them in a “emergency supplemental” borders on the obscene as it speaks volumes to the cowardice of congressional Democrats.
And so I too call on the new Obama Administration to finally place the continuing costs of our ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in the light of day. Stop the off-budget spending. Use for your example FDR who placed the costs of WWII on budget in 1943 or every president since who has managed to place funding for our military adventures (or mis-adventures) on budget within the first two years of their inception.
Of course, if you end these occupations, you will find that budgeting should become much easier and much more transparent.
Chad (The Left) Shue