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Pentagon Asks for $190 Billion in War Funds

TOM BOWMAN: This is Tom Bowman at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to the Senate Appropriations Committee, looking for another $200 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year. Gates was greeted with catcalls from the anti-war protesters.

(Soundbite of protesters)

BOWMAN: And Democratic Chairman Robert Byrd of West Virginia came off like a stern country preacher.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, West Virginia): The Congress has now appropriated over $450 billion for the nefarious infernal war in Iraq. And this committee will not, and noting, not rubberstamp every request that is submitted by the president.

(Soundbite of applause)

BOWMAN: Most of the nearly $200 billion Gates wants is for Iraq, for ongoing combat operations to repair damaged or lost equipment. Gates says it also includes $15 billion to protect troops - that includes new technologies to detect roadside bombs, the biggest killer in Iraq. He wants another $14 billion to buy thousands of new heavily armored vehicles.

Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Department of Defense): We have a total requirement of about 15,000 of these vehicles for all the services, the bulk of them going to the Army and to the Marine Corps.

BOWMAN: Training and equipping the Iraqi security forces will get another $1 billion. American taxpayers already have spent at least $14 billion on the Iraqi army and police. And there's more money for military commanders to spend on local rebuilding projects.

Military officers both in Iraq and the Pentagon complain the Iraqi government is not spending enough of its own money on reconstruction, so they must fill in the gap. Democrats wanted even more details on the spending plans. And some Republicans were also weary of the price tag.

GOP Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said domestic education and health programs are under funded, he press Gates on how much the wars would cost.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): I would appreciate it if you could supply to the committee ballpark figures, estimates, as to what the war in Iraq, Afghanistan will cost on the most favorable assumptions. And what it will cost on the least favorable assumptions.

BOWMAN: Gates pointed out that American troop levels are coming down in Iraq. But the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that even smaller levels of American troops in Iraq could cost up to $25 billion each year.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, the Pentagon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.
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