Obama seeks $192B as war steps up in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama wants $192 billion in war spending for the next year-and-a-half, a hefty sum aimed at escalating the war in Afghanistan amid waning support at home.
The request reflects Obama's recent decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to blunt a growing insurgency. Despite doubts among many Americans, including those in his own political party, Obama sees the decision as critical to bringing the war to a conclusion.
His plan calls for troops to start leaving Afghanistan in July 2011.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said success in Iraq and Afghanistan has "moved to the top" of the Pentagon's priority list.
"We now recognize that America's ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend importantly on our success in the current conflicts," Gates told reporters on Monday.
The government has already shelled out a combined $1 trillion since 2001 for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama's $192 billion war budget rivals the $245 billion request made in 2007 by President George W. Bush, after announcing that more than 20,000 combat troops would be sent to Baghdad.
Congress was expected to endorse the budget plan even though several anti-war Democrats oppose the troop buildup and others are looking for ways to lessen the war's burden on the nation's deficit.
Some lawmakers have proposed a special "war tax" to cover the costs, while Republicans have suggested taking money from Obama's $787 billion stimulus package.
In a statement released Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a liberal anti-war Democrat from California, suggested savings could be found in the Pentagon's budget.
"Curbing military contractors' wasteful practices must be part of our efforts to restore accountability, transparency and fiscal discipline to the federal budget," she said.
Gates said the Defense Department has already scrubbed its spending plan for savings "in a sober and clear-eyed way."
The $192 billion request includes $33 billion to pay for the troop buildup this year. The remaining $159 billion would pay for overseas military operations in the government's 2011 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
Gates said much of the war money would be spent on filling "persistent shortfalls" that have plagued ongoing operations.
Some $9 billion would go toward buying more helicopters, while $2 billion would be used to almost double - from 37 to 65 - the number of combat air patrols by sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles.
The money also would go to U.S. allies. Obama calls for $2 billion for Pakistan to reimburse it for operations along its Afghan border, as well as $13.6 billion to train and equip security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.