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U.S. War Spending to Rise 44% to $9.8 Bln a Month, Report Says

By Tony Capaccio and Jeff Bliss

03/17/06 (Bloomberg)
-- U.S. military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan will average 44 percent more in the current fiscal year than in fiscal 2005, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said.

Spending will rise to $9.8 billion a month from the $6.8 billion a month the Pentagon said it spent last year, the research service said. The group's March 10 report cites ``substantial'' expenses to replace or repair damaged weapons, aircraft, vehicles, radios and spare parts.

It also figures in costs for health care, fuel, national intelligence and the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces -- ``now a substantial expense,'' it said.

The research service said it considers ``all war and occupation costs,'' while the Pentagon counts just the cost of personnel, maintenance and operations.

The House approved emergency funding that includes the military spending last night by a vote of 348-71. The measure authorizes $72 billion for war costs and almost $20 billion for hurricane relief. The Senate is expected to pass it next month.

Congress already has approved $50 billion in supplemental war funding for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, after spending $100 billion last year. To date, Congress has approved about $337 billion for the wars since Sept. 11, 2001.

2007 Funding

The administration has said it also will seek $50 billion in war funding for fiscal 2007 to serve as a bridge fund until needs are assessed. That will be on top of the $439.3 billion defense budget the president submitted.

The request the House approved last night includes $67.6 billion for war operations, much of it in costs for personnel and repair and replacement of equipment; about $4.9 billion to train and equip Afghan and Iraqi security forces; and about $2 billion for defenses against roadside bombs, which have been a leading cause of death for U.S. servicemen in Iraq.

To date, 2,310 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the war began three years ago, 1,808 of them in combat, according to the Pentagon.

The hurricane money approved last night will go toward housing, enhancing levees and public safety projects in Louisiana and Mississippi following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina last August, the administration has said.

Spending on the wars and hurricane relief will help widen the federal budget deficit to a record $423 billion this fiscal 2006, an increase from last year's $319 billion deficit, the administration forecast last month.

$87 Billion Already

Of the $87 billion already approved for hurricane relief and rebuilding, $31 billion has been earmarked for health and social services, school repairs, payments to farmers and unemployment insurance; $41 billion is going for temporary housing and flood insurance payments and $15 billion is set aside for levee and road repairs and repairs to damaged federal facilities, according to the administration.

The measure passed last night includes an amendment to prohibit a Dubai-owned company from operating port facilities in the U.S. DP World, the third-largest container port operator, has already promised it will sell its U.S. operations to a U.S. buyer. Most lawmakers conceded the issue was moot but wanted their opposition to the original deal to be on record.

Other amendments provide extra money for anti-drug operations in Colombia and peacekeeping efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net.
Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

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