By Roxana Tiron - 02/05/07 12:00 AM EST
In an effort to demonstrate that the White House and military leadership view the new troop "surge" strategy in Iraq as a short-term initiative, the Pentagon did not ask for funding for additional troops in its 2008 emergency war supplemental request, according to Department of Defense officials.
The Pentagon's request for additional troops in Iraq comes as the Senate takes up debate on a non-binding resolution opposing the surge. But the resolution faces strong opposition from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), who are working on a resolution to set benchmarks for progress in Iraq.
The Pentagon officials' comments also contrast with a Congressional Budget Office study released last week, which said the Pentagon would have to send as many as 48,000 additional troops to Iraq at an estimated cost of $20 billion to $27 billion. In its analysis, the CBO said the White House did not mention the number of customary support combat troops the Pentagon sends along with any deployment of combat brigades.
The Pentagon's comptroller, Tina Jonas, called the troop boost of approximately 21,500 a "near-term" initiative. "We are not requesting funds beyond this fiscal year for […] the plus-up," she said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday.
"Right now we are envisioning a pretty short plus-up," the director of force structure, resources and assessment at the Joint Staff, Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, said.
The Bush administration technically submitted three defense budgets to the Hill Monday: a $93.4 billion emergency supplemental request for FY 2007, a $481 billion base budget for FY 2008 and a war supplemental request of $141.7 billion.
The Pentagon is requesting $5.6 billion for five additional Brigade Combat Teams and an increased naval presence. It is not asking for additional funding in its 2008 supplemental request, Jonas pointed out, acknowledging the CBO report.
She said that the 2008 war emergency request is "our best estimate at this time."
"I think we know that it will be wrong," she added. "Obviously conditions will change and we will have to adjust at that point, but this is our best judgment at this time." Jonas added that the request is based on the assumption that there will be 140,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan. This "is our baseline prior to these policy changes that were made on the surge," Jonas said.
Meanwhile, the 2007 war supplemental also includes $3.6 billion to accelerate two Army brigade combat teams under its new so-called modularity endeavor and establish one additional Marine Corps regimental combat team to relieve some of the pressure on the current force.
This year's war emergency funds also include $3.8 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces and $ 5.9 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces. Those numbers go down to $2 billion for the Iraqi forces and $2.7 billion for the Afghan forces in the 2008 war supplemental request.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a presidential candidate and critic of the troop surge, said that she would want to cut funds for Iraqi security forces if they do not meet certain benchmarks.
Faced with increasing criticism from Congress, the Bush administration is abandoning funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without supporting detail. The Pentagon has sent tomes of justification materials to Congress and officials have already met with congressional leaders to discuss details, said Jonas.
Both Democrats and Republicans are frustrated with the Pentagon for adding several modernization items in both its 2007 and 2008 supplemental requests. One of these items is the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The Air Force is requesting two JSFs in 2007 and another one in 2008 to replace damaged F-16 fighters that are no longer being produced for the Air Force, but only for foreign military sales. Those versions are far from what the Air Force would be using, according to Maj. Gen. Frank Faykes, the Air Force's budget director.
He also said that the Air Force would receive the aircraft much sooner than 2013, when initial operational capability is projected. It would take about three years from the moment the Air Force has the money to roll out the three aircraft, he explained.
Meanwhile, both the Air Force and the Navy, which is buying vertical-takeoff and -landing versions of the JSF, do not want to buy an alternate engine for the JSF built by Britain's Rolls Royce, setting the stage for a fierce fight with Congress. Last year, the Pentagon tried to scrap the alternate engine, but Congress did not allow it. Britain, the main partner in the JSF, has viewed the rejection of an alternate engine as a blow.