Washington Pulse

By Fein, Geoff S. | National Defense, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Washington Pulse


Fein, Geoff S., National Defense


'05 Defense Bill Will See 'Smooth Sailing'

Congressional staffers predict the fiscal year 2005 funding for the Defense Department will move quickly through the appropriations process, despite widening concerns about the administration's reluctance to disclose projected cost estimates on the war in Iraq.

The president's request of $401.7 billion for the Defense Department in 2005 does not include any money for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan or for the 30,000 additional soldiers the Army requires to meet pressing wartime needs.

The 30,000 troops alone will cost at least $3.6 billion, according to Charlie Houy, minority staff director for the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee. He said the administration's decision to postpone a supplemental funding request until after the November 2004 elections is likely to generate "controversy," because many members of Congress may not want to be kept in the dark about the estimated cost of the war for fiscal year 2005. His subcommittee, he said, would much rather receive the supplemental request by mid- or late summer.

Defense Department Comptroller Dov Zakheim defended the administration's decision, claiming that it is too early to predict funding requirements for conflicts where the situation changes on a daily basis.

Steven Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, predicts the defense budget will be under enormous pressure as the federal deficit surges, but he nevertheless expects annual increases for defense of $10 billion each year until 2010.

"The president has no incentive to have a budget that reflects reality, because he has an incentive to receive supplemental funding," said a congressional source.

In Kosiak's view, 2005 will be a good year for procurement, but the long-term picture is rather "pessimistic," as the deficit will start "sinking in" by the end of the decade.

The Pentagon's decision to direct most of the procurement funding increases in 2005 to missile defense and space programs also has triggered concerns on Capitol Hill. "That is not good news for the Army," Houy said.

JJ. Gertler, a senior staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, said the services must continue to update their "unfunded requirements list." Those lists, although discouraged by the Pentagon leadership, are imporrant for members for Congress to have in hand when it's time to make budget decisions.

$5B To Be Awarded for Iraq Reconstruction

The Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Department of Defense are expected to award $5 billion in reconstruction contracts this month to help rebuild the country's infrastructure. High up on the list of needs are power generators, sewage and water systems, and rebuilding airports, highways and ports.

Each award is for two years with three additional one-year options. Contractors will have 14 days, from the date of award, to establish bases of operation in the Middle East. They will have 30 days to set up the capability to handle the design-build work, said Francis Sullivan, contracting officer, for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard. …

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