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Q & A: Iraq - Afghanistan War Supplemental, Feb 13, 2008

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February 14, 2008

Congress will soon begin consideration of an additional $102.4 billion in supplemental funding for the Iraq – Afghanistan wars. On February 13, Representative Jack Murtha (Chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee) announced that he intends to produce a final version of the latest 2008 Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental spending bill by the end of February. After this it will be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee and then go to the full floor of the House for a vote. The Senate similarly is beginning to develop its version of the latest war supplemental spending bill.

The House bill will be developed behind closed doors. No hearings are scheduled between now and the end of February to discuss the bill in the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. It is not known when the final war supplemental spending bill will be made available to the public. It may well end up that the final supplemental spending bill is presented as a “fait accompli”—an accomplished act—on the floors of the House and of the Senate only hours before the vote is to take place. In May 2007, the final spending bill was not released to the public until about 6 a.m. on the morning of the vote. In December 2007, the funds for the Iraq war were tucked into a Senate amendment to an omnibus appropriations bill—an amendment available to the public only after it was submitted on the floor of the Senate by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

It is also highly unlikely that any language on partial troop withdrawal will be included in the supplemental spending bill this time around. Representative Murtha stated that he will recommend the inclusion of some form of withdrawal language in the bill, though stopped short of stating partial withdrawal language will in fact be included in the bill. However, such language was stripped out of the final version of war supplemental spending bills that passed Congress in May 2007 and in December 2007.

Therefore, it is critical that phone calls and lobbying—both legal and extralegal civil disobedience—be on-going at the offices of Representatives and Senators with the message being simple: Vote against any additional funds for the Iraq war.

You can contact your Representative and Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

You can find out your Representative’s and Senators’ direct contact information by visiting the website of Contacting Congress

Following is a “Question and Answer” piece on the status of the Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental as well as two charts that summarize the components of the war spending request.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE IRAQ – AFGHANISTAN WAR SUPPLEMENTAL FOR FY 2008

How much did President Bush request for the Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental?

President Bush requested a total of $189.2 billion in funding for the Iraq – Afghanistan wars in Fiscal Year 2008. This Fiscal Year runs from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008.

This includes: $17.7 billion for Personnel Costs; $84.3 billion for Operations & Maintenance costs; and $67.2 billion for Procurement costs.

How much has Congress already appropriated for the wars in Fiscal Year 2008?

$86.8 billion is already appropriated by Congress for FY 2008. Funds were appropriated on three occasions. In September, Congress appropriated $5.2 billion in the Continuing Resolution (HR 52). In November, Congress appropriated $11.6 billion and included this amount in the baseline budget for the Department of Defense. In December, Congress appropriated an additional $70 billion as a supplemental included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008.

How much remains to be appropriated for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in FY 2008?

Congress fully funded the procurement of MRAP vehicles in the Continuing Resolution of September and in the Department of Defense baseline budget of November. It appropriated a total of $16.8 billion for procurement, maintenance and transport of MRAPs. This is the total amount requested by the Bush Administration for FY 2008 for MRAP vehicles.

How much remains to be appropriated of the amount requested by President Bush?

Of the funds requested by President Bush, $102.4 billion remains to be considered by Congress.

This includes: $16.7 billion for Personnel costs; $34 billion for Operations & Maintenance costs; and $44.3 billion for Procurement costs.

When will Congress act upon the remaining $102.4 billion requested by President Bush?

It is not known precisely when Congress will act upon the remaining $102.4 billion of President Bush’s request.

However, Representative Murtha stated that he intends to have a final bill prepared by the end of February. The bill will then go to the full House Appropriations Committee for a vote and, after that, to the full House of Representatives for a vote. In each of the last two years, the House voted on its version of the bill in the week leading up to the start of a two week recess. The recess this year begins on March 15 and ends on March 31.

The Senate must then pass its version of a supplemental spending bill. In each of the past two years, the Senate passed its version between mid-April and the first week of May.

It is possible that a vote on the latest Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental could be delayed in both the House and the Senate until sometime after General Petraeus (Commander of the Multi-National Forces – Iraq) presents a report to Congress in April (expected during the week of April 7).

Will Congress hold hearings on the President’s request for additional Iraq – Afghanistan war funds before crafting legislation to appropriate the funds?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. In the spring of 2007, Representative John Murtha (Chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee) held hearings on the Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental spending request. Similar hearings were conducted in the Senate. These were hearings on the President’s request for war appropriations for Fiscal Year 2007 (which ended on September 30, 2007).

However, no such subcommittee hearings were held in the fall of 2007 before Congress appropriated money for the Iraq – Afghanistan wars. Indeed, when Congress appropriated $70 billion for the wars in December 2007, about half of that money was added through an amendment made by Senator Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate which was included in the final bill.

Normally, when Congress appropriates money, a conference committee writes a report detailing how the money is to be spent. No such report accompanies the $70 billion appropriated by Congress. Instead, the details are included in documentation submitted by Senator McConnell and inserted into the Congressional Record at the time of the vote.

Will the final Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental be available to the public before the vote in Congress?

Yes, but substantively no. The probability is high that the pattern of prior supplemental spending bills will be followed. Backroom deals will be negotiated by the powers-that-be and a final bill will be posted on the House of Representatives website on the morning of the vote. In May 2007, the final version of the House supplemental spending bill was not posted and available to the public until 6 a.m. on the morning of the vote.

Do funds appropriated by Congress for FY 2008 have to be spent by the military before September 30, 2008?

A Fiscal Year for the federal government begins on October 1 and ends the following September 30.

Funds appropriated for Personnel Costs and for Operations and Maintenance costs must be spent during the fiscal year for which they are appropriated—or, in this case, by September 30, 2008.

However, Procurement funds can be carried over from one year into the next. The military operates on a 3 year procurement cycle. In order to allow for bids to be placed; contracts to be signed; production to be completed and equipment to be delivered, Congress allows money appropriated for procurement to be spent up to three years into the future. Therefore, if Congress ends up approving the full $67.2 billion for procurement originally requested by President Bush, the Department of Defense will have until September 30, 2010 to actually spend the money for procurement. Much of the equipment to be purchased with these funds won’t be delivered to the military until 2009 or 2010.

The purchase of body armor and other protective gear for soldiers is contained within the Operation and Maintenance portion of the budget.

Will Congress attempt to attach any loose language on withdrawal to the Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental?

It seems highly unlikely that Congress will attach any loose language on partial troop withdrawal to an Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental this spring.

Is President Bush seeking any Iraq – Afghanistan war funds for Fiscal Year 2009?

Yes. President Bush included a $70 billion “placeholder” in his budget for FY 2009 (which runs from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009). This is the same tactic that was used in prior fiscal years when Congress approved “bridge” funds or “reserve” funds for the Iraq – Afghanistan wars which were then contained as separate “supplemental” sections within the baseline Defense appropriations bill.

In testimony before Congress in early February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates estimated that the total spending request for FY 2009 for the Iraq – Afghanistan wars will be about $170 billion. He stated that this is only a guess and is based solely upon a straight line projection of current year costs into next year.

Download charts for Q & A - PDF file