Inouye wants more Afghanistan war funds considered by authorizers

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye has indicated that he won’t approve any additional request for Afghanistan war money without proper debate and scrutiny.

Inouye (D-Hawaii) said he expects to see a request for an increase in war funds in the form of an emergency war supplemental next spring. Such a supplemental would have to be “fully considered and debated” by congressional defense authorizers—the Senate and House Armed Services panels--Inouye told reporters in a recent short interview.

Defense authorizers set military policy and are the ones who initially green-light funding amounts for military programs.  

Inouye’s comments indicate that funding Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy is not going to be a pure spending exercise, but instead will be overseen by all the committees of jurisdiction. The request will likely be at the center of a divisive congressional debate over war operations in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce his Afghanistan strategy and potential troop deployments early next week. 

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told a press briefing on Tuesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is “fully prepared” to go to Capitol Hill and explain the decision as soon as the president announces it. Gates also expects the commanding general in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to do the same, Morrell added.

Defense authorizers approved $130 billion in overseas contingency funds as part of the 2010 defense authorization bill that Obama has already signed into law. The Senate and House are now negotiating the 2010 Pentagon-spending bill. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include war funds for 2010.

Any additional funding would have to be “debated” by the authorizers, “unless you want us to be a rubber stamp,” Inouye said. “I was not elected for that.”

Lawmakers next year expect to debate a supplemental worth billions. When briefing lawmakers on the costs of the operations in Afghanistan, the White House has used the calculation of $1 million per troop deployed.

However, Pentagon officials have pointed out that the actual costs of any new deployments won’t be certain until Obama’s strategy spells out the missions and areas where new deployments would operate.