Defense Department Running Out Of Money

DOD ‘Running Out Of Money’ As Congress Eyes Bridge Funds (Aerospace Daily & Defense Report $)

The House and Senate this week are expected to speed through a continuing resolution funding the government into fiscal 2006, although it won’t help the Defense Department, which is “running out of money” to cover operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as one lawmaker said. With FY05 ending Sept. 30, the congressional resolution is expected to keep government going at FY05 levels up until Thanksgiving. Such funding would not provide the U.S. military funds to start new acquisition programs, or the extra funding needed for ongoing foreign combat operations.

Instead, the DOD is waiting on defense appropriations legislation to emerge from Capitol Hill containing supplemental funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. The House in June passed $45.3 billion for those operations on top of $363.7 billion in base funding for FY06 (DAILY, June 22). On Sept. 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee passed the initial draft of its DOD spending bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Besides $440.2 billion in base funding, the panel agreed to $50 billion in additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the Senate votes, the two chambers would have to work out a compromise in conference and then send it to President Bush.

“It’s necessary because they are running out of money,” Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), defense subcommittee chairman, told reporters after the panel marked up its legislation without dissent. Stevens and others have said they expect another supplemental request out of the White House later in FY06. “Since this bridge funding is only adequate to cover the costs of the war for half the year, the hard reality is that before the year is over the Pentagon will have to ask for more money for the war,” House Democratic appropriators wrote in the report accompanying the House defense spending bill.

It’s rather appropriate that Stevens mentions the word “bridge” in this context, no? For those of you who haven’t been paying attention the last few months, Alaskan Nick Jans provides an overview:

As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, our lone congressman has incredible clout in determining where federal funding (provided by your tax dollars) ends up. The six-year, $295 billion behemoth of a transportation bill was approved in the House of Representatives and easily passed in the Senate on Tuesday. Young has bragged that the bill is “stuffed like a turkey” with high-dollar projects earmarked for his home state, totaling $721 million. In fact, Young is so fond of the bill that he named it TEA-LU, after his wife, Lu.

Here’s a sampling of projects for Alaska funded by the Transportation Equity Act:

• $223 million to build a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) to the city airport on Gravina Island (population 50). Currently, the link is provided by a 10-minute ferry ride that has worked for years. This proposed project won Young a “Golden Fleece Award” from Taxpayers for Common Sense — an award he has told supporters he cherishes.

• $200 million for another “bridge to nowhere,” which would lead from Anchorage, the state’s largest city, to a rural port that has one tenant and a handful of homes. Total cost for the project has been estimated at upwards of $1.5 billion. Not even the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce wants it.

̢ۢ $15 million to begin work on a 68-mile, $284 million access road to Juneau, the state capital, even though a majority of area residents have said they would prefer improving service in the existing ferry system instead. The proposed road would compromise so many ecologically sensitive areas that the Environmental Protection Agency, in an extremely unusual move, has stated its opposition to the project.

Perhaps if Congress restricted its spending to bridges that actually go somewhere, we wouldn’t have to scramble as hard to fund ongoing wars.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Congress, Military Affairs, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    Couldn’t the Pentagon finally hold that bake sale I keep seeing suggested on all the leftie bumper stickers? 😉

    But seriously folks, it might also help if the Bush Administration didn’t pretend it can’t budget for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. With a little intellectual honesty the Administration could regularize funding.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Jim: Agreed. There’s no excuse for counting as “emergency” expenditures those which can be routinely programmed.

  3. Anderson says:

    Gives “A Bridge Too Far” a whole new meaning.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Perhaps if the pork President had vetoed even a single spending bill during his presidency there would be a few more dollars in the till…

  5. Wayne says:

    Many are in the typical position of not knowing where the blames should go. It is the congress that prevents the administration from not budgeting the war. The administration originally tried to give the congress an estimated budget for the war with a 80 to 90 % solution. War is fluent, so one can’t give an exact cost of what it will cost. Not that any project goes as plan but that is another issue. Congress said that if the administration can’t give them a 100 % solution on the cost then they don’t want it. Some in congress has say “we are not going to give Defense Department a blank check”. Of course it easier to blame Bush for everything including the weather then take the time and see who is really responsible or simply because of one hate for Bush.

  6. Anderson says:

    Don’t call him the “Pork President,” anjin-san, he likes it—enrages the Islamists even further.

  7. Anderson says:

    War is fluent

    Would that we all were!

    (Sorry, Wayne, couldn’t resist.)

    The notion of a Republican Congress not giving Bush what he wants is implausible, at least without some citations. But I’m happy to blame Bush and the Congress.

  8. Wayne says:

    Doesn’t look like my repost didn’t make it.
    The congress will not going change the way they do business for any President. They love their power too much. The congress will give Bush what he asks for but only after their grandstanding.

    Don’t forget most bureaucracy starts in the Congress. Remember why the F.B.I. and C.I.A couldn’t share most of their Intel. Congress passed a law forbidding it. Of course they will blame an administration for their mistake either Clinton or Bush or whomever.

  9. Jim Henley says:

    Congress said that if the administration cant give them a 100 % solution on the cost then they dont want it.