WASHINGTON – The Bush administration may ask Congress next month for a few billion more dollars for Iraq reconstruction (search), officials said Wednesday, only a few weeks after the Pentagon said extra money would not be needed at least until the new budget year begins in October.
The possible early infusion of fresh cash is an indication of the urgency felt by L. Paul Bremer (search), the civilian administrator of Iraq, and others in the administration to make faster progress in Iraq.
The administration has been saying for weeks that it expects to request billions in emergency funding for Iraq during the 2004 budget year, but until now it had insisted enough money was available through September to pay for civic projects like repairing utilities and schools.
In fact, as recently as Aug. 4 the Pentagon had estimated that $4 billion of the $62.6 billion in emergency funding it received in April would be left over when the budget year ends Sept. 30.
The United States is spending about $3.9 billion a month on military operations in Iraq, and that does not count funds used by Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (search) to rebuild the wartorn country.
The U.S. military has about 140,000 troops in Iraq and is expected to maintain that level for the foreseeable future. Some in Congress are even calling for more troops, which would add costs.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told reporters Wednesday it was too early to say for sure how much extra money would be needed to cover costs in Iraq - or when it would be requested.
"We don't have the numbers at this point, and until we have responsible numbers we're not going to go to Congress," she said, speaking at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, also declined to discuss timing or amounts.
"We are working with Ambassador Bremer to meet his requirements and have not finalized on any amounts," he said.
Some in Congress are critical of the administration for not offering an estimate of how much the Iraq occupation and reconstruction effort will cost next year. The Pentagon says it depends on several variables, including international contributions and the extent of Iraqi oil revenues.
Bremer told The Washington Post on Tuesday that it would take years and "several tens of billions" of dollars from outside Iraq to get the country functioning again. Bush said Tuesday it would take a "substantial commitment of time and resources," but he offered no figures.