Bush Sends Congress $439 Billion Defense Budget

Upcoming White House requests would boost total spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well past the $400 billion mark, while spending for hurricane relief would top $100 billion, administration officials acknowledge.

The new totals came to light Thursday as the administration said it would ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief.

The president also will ask Congress to devote an additional $2.3 billion to prepare for a bird flu epidemic, congressional aides said.

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 for the first few months of the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. More money will probably be needed in 2007.

The bulk of the emergency spending will go toward military operations, officials said, but will also be used to replace damaged, destroyed or worn-out equipment. Another part of the request would provide aid to train Iraqi security forces and otherwise combat the insurgency in Iraq.

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

Administration officials said the new figures were estimates and the totals could change slightly by the time they are presented to Congress.

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."

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007 is a placeholder and suggested the combined costs of the two campaigns could be different.

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

According to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, next week Bush will request a $439.3 billion Defense Department budget for 2007, a nearly 5 percent increase over this year. That request does not include the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 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. That reflects about $68 billion in emergency appropriations, $18.5 billion in available flood insurance funds and the latest $18 billion figure.

The upcoming request is likely to create tensions between Gulf Coast lawmakers who want more than that amount and conservatives insisting that it be at least partially paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Powell said it probably would be the last such spending request for the current budget year, and he does not anticipate additional money for the region in the 2007 budget Bush planned to announce Monday. He said a detailed request would go to Congress within 10 days to 30 days.

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

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

Gulf Coast lawmakers, as they did in December, are likely to try to add to the request and push for more aid for flood control and housing.

"We certainly welcome additional federal assistance," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "But I am highly concerned that the administration's proposal, which lacks details, will put more money into dysfunctional federal bureaucracies like FEMA and won't adequately address urgent needs such as housing, levees and flood protection."

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.

The latest request is also likely to include funding for federal facilities such as military bases and veterans hospitals damaged by last fall's storms. Congress failed to fully fund several comparable requests last year.