WASHINGTON – President Bush is likely to ask Congress for an additional $5.6 billion to pay for military health care, higher energy costs and other Pentagon expenses through September, a defense official said Thursday.
Some members of Congress say the extra money is too little and will not fully cover the Pentagon's current expenses, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The supplemental budget request was submitted to the White House on May 21, the Post reported, and officials said it could be sent to Congress any day.
The largest single item in the Pentagon request is $1.9 billion for military personnel benefits, including salaries and housing. Of that total, $1.4 billion is for defense health insurance costs that were authorized by Congress last year but not funded in the federal budget for fiscal 2001, which ends Sept. 30.
The supplemental budget includes $970 million for previously authorized flying hours by military aviators, the defense official said. He discussed the matter on condition of anonymity. An additional $400 million is for military base operations.
The request includes $44 million for repairs to the USS Cole, the Navy destroyer that was nearly sunk last October in a terrorist attack in Aden, Yemen. An additional $36 million will pay for recovering the Japanese fishing vessel that was accidentally sunk by the submarine USS Greeneville off Hawaii this year.
The Pentagon also says it needs an extra $734 million for rising energy costs, plus $476 million for aircraft and ship maintenance not previously funded.
On the plus side, the Pentagon request includes $505 million in unexpected savings from delays in production of the problem-plagued V-22 Osprey aircraft and cutbacks to B-52 bomber modernization, the official said. Those savings are submitted as part of the supplemental budget because they must be approved by Congress.
In principle, supplemental spending requests are meant to provide relatively small amounts for contingencies that arise after the federal budget is enacted.
But the Pentagon, unlike other federal agencies, has regularly used supplementals to fill gaps in funding for basic operations, maintenance and supplies. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he intends to end this practice.
In the early days of the new administration, top military officials suggested they might request at least $8 billion to $10 billion in a 2001 supplemental budget.
But the White House and Rumsfeld decided they would take care of only immediate needs in modifying this year's defense budget.