Defense Spending: Let Her Rip

Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel report on more deferred tax increases from the Bush Administration:

The Pentagon is preparing an emergency spending proposal that could be larger and broader than any since the Sept. 11 attacks, covering not only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but extending to other military operations connected to the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. The spending plans may push the Defense Department into conflict with Democrats as they take control of Capitol Hill in January. Democrats had been planning to limit the emergency “supplemental” spending measures that have funded the wars in favor of the regular federal budget process, which affords greater oversight and congressional control. Congressional and military officials have said the Pentagon is considering a request of $127 billion to $150 billion in new emergency war spending, the largest such request since the special spending measures were begun in 2001. So far, Congress has allocated $495 billion for Afghanistan, Iraq and terrorism-related efforts. Even within the Pentagon, the spending request is generating controversy. The Pentagon was due to forward its request to the White House by about Nov. 15. But a senior Defense Department official said that the decision has been delayed and that Pentagon officials have asked Army and Air Force officials to provide more justification for their spending demands. The services have been pushing to increase the size of the supplemental appropriation in order to replace equipment, and they have argued that the overall military budget is too small given the demands on the armed forces … The next request stands to be larger partly because of new rules laid out in an Oct. 25 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England. Rather than strictly limiting spending to Iraq and Afghanistan costs, the memo said the military services could include costs associated with operations that are part of the larger war on terrorism. Previously, the military portion of the supplemental spending measures has been used almost exclusively for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. England’s memo would allow the military to include a greater number of expenses more loosely tied to the actual wars, such as new military weapons systems and training exercises. Critics of the Pentagon budget process say the memo has encouraged the services to inflate their requests. “The England memo basically said, ‘Let her rip,’ ” said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project and a former congressional budget aide. “Anything goes, as long as you can put it under the pretext of not only Iraq or Afghanistan but the global war on terror.”

In a way, getting all of this on the table is a good thing as Speaker Pelosi will have a lot of fiscal messes to clean up now that the Hastert led Congress had abdicated all responsibility. And it stands to reason that there is a lot of rebuilding of the military to do in the aftermath of the Iraq fiasco. But there is also a tone that this is open season for military-laced pork barrel spending. If the White House is in favor of more defense spending – isn’t it reasonable for us to ask President Bush – how are we going to pay for this? Oh yea – another tax cut. Ahem!

Hat tip to Judd.