By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 26, 2007 - President Bush will ask Congress for another $42 billion to fund operations in the war on terror in fiscal 2008, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee today. Gates; Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte; Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Defense Department Comptroller Tina W. Jonas testified before the committee. The request brings the total supplement for fiscal 2008 to $190 billion, Gates said.
"I urge the Congress to approve the complete global war on terror request as quickly as possible and without excessive and counterproductive restrictions," the secretary said. "That will help the department manage its expenses and people more effectively and minimize costly reprogramming actions."
The department had asked for $141.7 billion for war on terror operations in February. The request for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, was a straight-line projection of ongoing war costs. At the time, Gates told Congress that the number would need to be adjusted as more information became available and the picture on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan became clearer.
That request included $70.6 billion for operations, $37.6 billion to repair or replace equipment, $15.2 billion for force protection, and $4.7 billion to train and equip Afghan and Iraqi security forces.
At the end of July, the department asked for another $5.3 billion to buy 1,520 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. These vehicles, known as MRAPs, offer better protection from improvised explosive devices and car bombs, the leading killers of Americans in Iraq. This brought the total request to $147 billion.
The $42 billion request the president will submit includes $6 billion to support Army and Marine combat formations in Iraq through fiscal 2008. This includes surge forces in the country and the president's announced intention to redeploy five Army brigade combat teams by next summer, Gates said.
The request also includes $14 billion for force protection, including another $11 billion to field 7,000 more MRAP vehicles. If approved, this would bring the request to 15,000 vehicles. "This also includes funding to better defeat enemy snipers and to modify Army combat vehicles to improve survivability," Gates said.
The request adds $9 billion for reconstitution of equipment. This is vital to ensure the armed forces have the equipment and technology needed for future operations, Gates said.
Another $5 billion will go for training and equipment to accelerate the deployment readiness of Army units. Also, $1 billion will go to support National Guard pre-deployment training.
In addition, the president will ask for $1 billion to improve U.S. facilities in Southwest Asia and consolidate bases in Iraq.
Finally, the request seeks another $1 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces, Gates said.
The defense secretary also threw his support behind the State Department portion of the request. "As you know, the challenges we face in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are fundamentally political, economic and cultural in nature and are not going to be overcome by military means alone," Gates told the senators. "It will be very difficult for our troops and their commanders to succeed without the key non-military programs and initiatives included in the request for the State Department."
During the hearing, anti-war groups interrupted the testimony on numerous occasions. The committee chairman finally had to clear the hearing room.
"I know that Iraq and other difficult choices America faces in the war on terror will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the president, and in the wider public debate," Gates said. "Considering this, I would like to close with a word about something I know we can all agree on -- the honor, courage and great sense of duty we have witnessed in our troops since Sept. 11.
"Under some of the most trying conditions, they have done far more than what was asked of them and far more than what was expected," the secretary continued. "Like all of you, I am both humbled and inspired by my trips to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) and to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, like all of you, I always keep our troops – their safety and their mission – foremost in my mind every day."