WASHINGTON – President Bush asked Congress on Monday for another $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finance other national security needs. "We must provide our troops with the help and support they need to get the job done," Bush said.
The figure brings to $196.4 billion the total requested by the administration for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere for the budget year that started Oct. 1. It includes $189.3 billion for the Defense Department, $6.9 billion for the State Department and $200 million for other agencies.
To date, Congress has already provided more than $455 billion for the Iraq war, with stepped-up military operations running about $10 billion a month. The war has claimed the lives of more than 3,830 members of the U.S. military and more than 73,000 Iraqi civilians.
Bush made his request in the Roosevelt Room after meeting in the Oval Office with leaders of veterans service organizations, a fallen Marine's family and military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House originally asked for $141.7 billion for the Pentagon to prosecute the Iraq and Afghanistan missions and asked for $5.3 billion more in July. The latest request includes $42.3 billion more for the Pentagon — already revealed in summary last month — and is accompanied by a modified State Department request bringing that agency's total for the 2008 budget year to almost $7 billion.
Bush said any member of Congress who wants to see success in Iraq, and see U.S. troops return home, should strongly support the request.
"I know some in Congress are against the war and are seeking ways to demonstrate that opposition," Bush said. "I recognize their position and they should make their views heard. But they ought to make sure our troops have what it takes to succeed. Our men and women on the front lines should not be caught the middle of partisan disagreements in Washington, D.C."
The State Department is requesting $550 million to combat drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America, $375 million for the West Bank and Gaza and $239 million for diplomatic costs in Iraq.
Top House lawmakers have already announced that they do not plan to act on Bush's request until next year, though they anticipate providing interim funds when completing a separate defense funding bill this fall. Bush asked lawmakers to approve the request before the holidays.
"We must provide our troops with the help and support they need to get the job done," Bush said. "Parts of this war are complicated, but one part is not, and that is America should do what it takes to support our troops and protect our people."
Congress already has approved more than $5 billion for new vehicles whose V-shaped undercarriages provide much better protection against mines and roadside bombs. It's likely that Congress will quickly grant $11 billion more to deliver more than 7,000 of the vehicles.
The delays in submitting the remaining war funding request were in part due to unease among congressional Republicans about receiving it during the veto override battle involving a popular bill reauthorizing a children's health insurance program.
The request also includes $724 million for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in the war-torn Darfur region in Sudan, $106 million in fuel oil or comparable assistance to North Korea as a reward for the rogue nation's promises to cease its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Another $350 million would go to fight famine in Africa.
For the Pentagon, the latest request includes:
—$1 billion for military construction projects, including improvements at airfields and other U.S. bases in Iraq.
—$1 billion to expand the Iraqi security forces.
—$1 billion to train National Guard units.
All told, the $189.3 billion Pentagon request for 2008 includes:
—$77 billion for military operations and maintenance.
—$30.5 billion for to protect U.S. forces from roadside bombs, snipers, and other threats.
—$46.5 billion to repair and replace equipment that has been damaged or destroyed in combat or worn out in harsh conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.