The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, August 04, 2006

The cost of the War on Terror

Harper's lobs some questions at Gordon Adams, who served as senior White House budget official for national security and international affairs for four years under Clinton. We all know about the billions that have gone missing in Iraq, but Adams contends that the policy of passing spending bills as "emergency supplements," which the White House has consistently done, guarantees a lack of oversight and accountability-- and the Defense Department has refused to file mandatory spending reports. A must-read.

Spending on Iraq alone makes up over 70 percent of the $437 billion, with Afghanistan costing another 20 percent and the rest for counter-terror operations elsewhere in the world. Another way of looking at it is that funding for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror accounts for 20 percent of all the funds the Defense Department has spent over the past five years. The Congressional Research Service estimates conservatively that we might spend another $371 billion on these operations through 2016. (. . .)

The funding request is prepared at the top of the Defense Department, but does not go through the regular internal budget planning process; it is waved through the White House, and lands—with minimal justification—on congressional desks. Normally, the defense budget is reviewed three times—by the Budget Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. Emergency supplementals skip the first two committees and go straight to the money guys—the appropriators. Over the past five years, the appropriators have held virtually no public hearings on the Iraq money; they just mark it up and push it through for a vote. So nobody is minding the store the way they should.

So, if some ten billion has been skimmed off the top and stolen, and less than 10% of total funding has gone to anti-terrorism efforts outside Afghanistan and Iraq (which would include apprehending bin Laden and other top al Qaeda operatives), out-and-out theft amounts to about a quarter of the other anti-terrorism funds.