Bush to Seek $120 Billion for Wars

The Bush administration said Thursday it will ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief.

If approved by Congress, the war money would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars.

Details of the requests are not final, but the 2007 budget proposal that President Bush will submit next week will reflect the totals for planning purposes. The president also will ask Congress to devote an additional $2.3 billion this year for prepare for a bird flu epidemic.

About $70 billion of the new war money will be requested for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, bringing total spending on the two campaigns to $120 billion for the current budget year. The other $50 billion in new war money will be set aside in the 2007 budget for the first few months of the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. More money will likely be needed in 2007.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that $320 billion has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including $50 billion that Congress sent Bush in December.

Administration officials said the new figures were estimates.

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the White House's budget office, said the administration was "trying to balance the desire for transparency and accurate estimating with the unpredictable nature of war and the needs on the ground."

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the requests reflect the president's desire to "commit the resources that are necessary to fight and win the war on terrorism."

The requested money would cover troop salaries and benefits, repairing and replacing equipment, supporting U.S. embassies in the two countries and taking on the insurgency. It would cover the costs of continuing to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces and protect U.S. troops.

Kaplan said the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007 is a placeholder and he suggested that the combined costs of the two campaigns could be different.

"We're still in the process of working out the details," he said.

Meantime, Donald Powell, the coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, confirmed that the administration would request $18 billion for that effort.

The money would push the total federal commitment for rebuilding to more than $100 billion, according to administration tallies. He said it probably would be the last such spending request for the current budget year. He said a detailed request would go to Congress within 10 days to 30 days.

Powell said he does not anticipate additional money for the region in the 2007 budget Bush planned to announce Monday.

Powell provided little detail about specifically what the money would be used for, saying it would include money for housing, roads and levees.

"That's a lot of money," he said, referring to the $100 billion.

The request is also likely to include funding for federal facilities such as military bases and veterans hospitals damaged by the September storm.

In December, Congress dedicated $29 billion of previously appropriated funds for such purposes as levee repair and construction, emergency funds to compensate homeowners whose hurricane insurance does not cover flood losses, and child care, mental health and other social services.

At that time, Congress exceeded Bush's request by $10.4 billion, mostly by approving $11.5 billion in flexible Community Development Block Grants.