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Budget Wars

It’s Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, and officials from the Defense Department are currently testifying before the Senate Budget Committee about war costs. They have some explaining to do.

Bush’s 2009 budget proposal included $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but assumes no costs beyond that.

There’s not a bit of truth in that estimate, of course. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified last week that the true cost of the wars next year will probably run closer to $170 billion. The Budget Committee is charged with authorizing some amount, so you can guess its members are a bit confused.

The White House has said it didn’t include the total 2009 spending because Bush won’t be around for much of the year to oversee it (clever). In addition, White House budget director Jim Nussle argued this month, the administration has no clue what the true cost of the wars will be. And if you’ve never believed a thing out of this administration, you can at least believe that.

Remember Mitch Daniels? He was the budget director who said the cost to fight these wars would top out at $50 or $60 billion.

Remember Donald Rumsfeld? He agreed.

Remember Lawrence Lindsey? He was pushed out of the White House for suggesting the bill might reach $200 billion.

Remember the Congressional Budget Office? It issued an analysis yesterday revealing that spending on the two wars to this point has reached $651 billion, and that won’t even get us through 2008. If the DoD gets the additional $101 billion it requested this year, total war spending will have been $752 billion since 2001.

DoD Deputy Secretary Gordon England said this morning that $170 billion sounds about right for 2009. “If you’re going to plug in a number,” he told Budget Committee member Wayne Allard (R-Col.), “that’s probably the appropriate number to plug in, sir.”

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