By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 26, 2007 - The additional budget request for the war on terror that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will present to Congress today reflects troop-level recommendations made by the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said today. Gates will present a $42.3 billion addition to the 2008 global war on terror supplemental request when he testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee today, Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters. This brings the overall request to just under $190 billion, after a $5.3 billion procurement request for armored vehicles was added to the $141.7 billion original request.
The initial request made in February did not take into account the U.S. troop surge into Iraq, Morrell said, so this addition was expected. This request reflects the recommendation of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq to 15 brigades by the end of July 2008 if conditions on the ground improve, Morrell said.
"You can rest assured that this number reflects the fact that the services believe they're going to need additional dollars to continue at the pace we're now going at coming into the new year," Morrell said.
Morrell declined to comment on how the distribution of the money would break down, but said that a large portion of the money will definitely go toward construction and deployment of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, which are in high demand in Iraq.
The Defense Department is still working to ramp up production of the vehicles, known as MRAPs, to the point where they can begin sea-lifting them to the theater as well as air-lifting them, Morrell said. Many challenges involved in speeding the production, he said, but it remains a high priority for the department.
"We are driving this and driving it hard, and the ultimate indicator of this is, are we getting them to theater as production is ramping up, and everything I've seen thus far suggests that we are still on the pace we hope to be," he said.
Morrell also answered questions about security contractors in Iraq. Based on initial information about how contractors operate in Iraq, which Gates asked for in light of a recent incident involving State Department security contractors, the secretary has dispatched a small team from the Pentagon to Iraq to delve deeper into some questions he had, Morrell said.
"From our perspective, he is satisfied with what he's heard from them and others that we have the right policies, procedures and legal authorities in place to sort of deal with the contractors who are working for us," Morrell said of Gates. "That said, he does have some concern about accountability and oversight."
To help address those concerns, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England yesterday sent a memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders outlining what their authorities are to hold contractors accountable. "We're just trying to make it clear to them that there are the existing authorities to sort of do this job that people are concerned about," Morrell said.