War Is Very Expensive
It’ll take some time before Defense Secretary Bob Gates issues his fiscal 2010 budget, capped by the White House at $537 billion, not including the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Before Congress and the Obama administration even get around to appropriating that money, though, Gates has told the White House that he’s going to need at least $83 billion more to cover operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 30, when this fiscal year ends. Jacking up troop levels in Afghanistan makes up the lion’s share of the difference. Given that there was already a separate funding request for fiscal-2009 war costs last year, this would bring total war costs in fiscal 2009 to $149 billion. Good thing there isn’t a worldwide economic crisis or anything.
Gates indicated in Senate testimony last month that he wants to end the practice of covering war costs in so-called supplemental funding requests, a dubious innovation of the Rumsfeld Pentagon that discouraged Congress and the Pentagon from taking hard looks at irrelevant and wasteful defense programs by making them appear detached from the immediate demands of the war. I will resist making an obvious joke about the parallels between supplements in Pentagon budgeting and in baseball.