One reason offered for the decrease in tempo of US operations in Iraq is a desire to avoid US casualties before the election. Another reason offered is the ability of the new Iraqi government to veto military operations. But there may be another reason that has been less noticed: Offensive operations eat resources at a faster rate and the US military needs more money that the Bush Administration does not want to try to get from Congress before the election.
The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year, federal investigators said yesterday.
The report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress's independent investigative arm, warned that the budget crunch is having an adverse impact on the military as it shifts resources to Iraq and away from training and maintenance in other parts of the world. The study -- the most detailed examination to date of the military's funding problems -- appears to contradict White House assurances that the services have enough money to get through the calendar year.
Money is being shifted from maintenance and other categories to pay for operations. Of course this is creating greater future needs for spending while also reducing the ability of the US military to fight in other theaters should the need arise.
Army leaders told Congress that it would take years to restore the pre-po stocks. The Army and GAO agree that it will cost $1.7 billion to reconstitute the Army's pre-po sets being used in Iraq, but only $700 million of that has been found so far. This expense was never built into any of the White House's regular or supplemental funding requests for Iraq. Rebuilding these stocks, which are critical to the Army's ability to deploy overseas in a hurry, will have to wait in line with billions of dollars in other unfunded requirements, which, according to the Washington Post, include $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots, and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights, and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat.
Presidents who are fighting popular wars can just go to Congress and ask for more money to buy whatever is needed. Bush at this point Bush is not fighting a popular war. Even before the war began Bush was unwilling or unable to recognize the size of the costs and to ask for the amount of money necessary to carry it off properly while not sacrificing other goals such as the pursuit of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. If the Bush Administration really thinks the high rate of consumption of military resources is necessary then it should make that case to Congress rather than trying to shift costs to the out years while underfunding current operations.
By the way, does anyone know the name of that dedicated training division that normally operates out of a US Army base in California or Arizona that plays the opposing force to US armoured divisions? Hasn't even that division been ordered deployed to Iraq?
Update: Yes indeed, "OpFor" training forces are being shipped to Iraq.
The Army's top training forces at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., are being deployed for the first time, to Iraq, raising concerns among some officers that troops will not be given the most strenuous preparation possible before they leave the United States.
The "Black Horse Cav" – the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment – will stop serving as the opposing-force training unit at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., and will join with the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi Guard. They will begin entering Iraq in January.
Similarly, the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry, which acts as the Opfor, or opposition force, for light infantry and special operations training at Fort Polk, La., is being called to Iraq, according to two Army officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.
This move reduces future readiness but provides a shorter term boost to forces in Iraq. If the Bush or Kerry Administration needs to do a lot of fighting in Iraq in early 2005 then these forces will be needed.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 July 26 11:58 AM Mideast Iraq Costs|