2004 was a costly year for the American occupation of Iraq, and if the Pentagon’s new funding request is any indication, 2005 isn’t going to be any cheaper.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “Pentagon officials said they will ask the Bush administration for an additional $80 billion in emergency funding to help pay costs of the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, slightly higher than the $70 billion to $75 billion many on Capitol Hill had expected.
“Senior Pentagon officials met to review and finalize the new budget request before sending it to the White House this week. Administration budget officials are then expected to whittle it down a bit. One defense official said the final White House request, which will be submitted to Congress early next year, would probably come in between $75 billion and $80 billion, pushing the total military costs, since the Iraq war began, to well over $230 billion.”
Considering Iraq’s halting reconstruction effort and continued security problems, it’s hard to argue that another massive infusion of “emergency funding” isn’t needed. And so while critics of the war (and some of its defenders) may privately blanche at the sums being poured into Iraq, the Journal notes that “it is unlikely that Congress, following the controversy over the lack of armor for U.S. humvees, would balk at spending for troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
But you can’t just fight a war with dollars. In a related development, the Boston Herald reports that the Army is planning on expanding in 2005.
“Hoping to take some of the load off beleaguered Army Reserve and National Guard units, the Army plans to increase its active duty force by about 30,000 this year to meet the demands of war in Iraq.
“In Boston yesterday for a recruitment ceremony and to announce a youth partnership with the Boston Fire Department, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody said he expects Army recruiters to meet their quotas despite bitter combat in Iraq.
“With an active duty force of nearly 500,000, the Army met its recruiting goal of 77,500 last year, and [Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard] Cody expects this year’s goal of 80,000 to be achieved. While National Guard units have had trouble attracting recruits because of long Guard deployments overseas, Cody said recruiters will turn their focus away from people leaving active duty because many of them are being retained.”
While Cody doesn’t mention it, another possible reason for why the National Guard isn’t focusing on retaining the Army’s departing veteran soldiers is that, these days, it’s hard to convince active-duty soldiers that joining the National Guard isn’t a likely ticket back to full-time service in Iraq.