President Bush has formally sent Congress his request for an initial $25 billion
for continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next budget
year beginning October first. U.S. lawmakers are confident the money will be
approved, but many are opposed to his request for flexibility in the way it is
to be used.
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
In seeking the funding, the Bush administration changed its position that
it would not ask for such money until after the November elections.
The request comes amid heightened violence in Iraq, which has prompted the
Defense Department to plan on keeping more troops in the country than originally
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz urged lawmakers to approve the funds
during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday:
"The reserve fund we are requesting would provide an insurance plan so the
Department of Defense has adequate resources for both its core defense activities
and its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "It is critical so that
we can avoid any disruption in funding for our military forces."
In making the request, President Bush is also asking that he have control
in how the money is spent.
However, that appeal is drawing fire from lawmakers of both parties, who
are angered over reports the administration had used money approved for the
war on terrorism to prepare for going to war in Iraq without telling Congress.
"This is a blank check" said Senator John McCain said. "There is no requirement
for consultation with the Congress. Shame!", added Senator Robert Byrd.
Mr. Wolfowitz pledged the administration would work with Congress to ensure
its oversight responsibilities while at the same time guaranteeing the flexibility
that U.S. troops need.
The Deputy Defense Secretary said the administration would return to Congress
early next year for more funds.
The administration's latest request would be in additional to the $87 billion
measure Congress approved last November and a $79 billion package lawmakers
passed in April of last year.