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Obama Supplemental Represents First Step Toward Responsible Budgeting April 10, 2009

Posted by dglaudemans in Uncategorized.
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President Obama and OMB Director Peter Orszag

President Obama and OMB Director Peter Orszag

President Obama released his FY 2009 supplemental request to Congress on April 9, 2009 asking for $83.4 billion to fund ongoing military, diplomatic and foreign assistance activities. Specifically, the request included $75.5 billion for the Department of Defense and $7.1 billion for international affairs. Prior supplemental requests often included funds for programs that were not directly related to combat operations or were used to fund foreign assistance programs that were not emergencies. To stop this practice, President Obama said that beginning in FY 2010 war costs will be fully accounted for in the base budget. However, this supplemental request does not yet reach Obama’s goal of limiting the use of supplementals to only fund unforeseen emergencies. While it is a good first step, there are programs included in this supplemental request that could otherwise be funded in the base budget.

What Doesn’t Belong

Some of the major items requested in this supplemental are long-term acquisition programs that are not directly related to ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, some funds for international affairs and foreign assistance are not requested in response to unforeseen emergencies but instead initiate long-term development programs and facility upgrades. Some examples of non-combat and non-emergency programs requested in this supplemental include:

· $600 million to purchase four new F-22 fighter jets;

· $400 million for a new Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund;

· $3.6 billion to train and equip Afghanistan Security Forces;

· $806.2 million to upgrade the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Pakistan; and

· $200 million for budget support to the Palestinian Authority.

In contrast to the above programs, several key items in Obama’s supplemental request can be characterized as combat-related or in response to an unforeseen emergency, necessitating the need for funds in a supplemental appropriation. Two examples that are arguably appropriate for inclusion in the supplemental are:

· $2.7 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle; and

· $350 million for counternarcotics activities on the Mexico border.

The MRAP was successfully procured through emergency supplementals in the past and this process allowed the MRAP to be rapidly deployed to combat units overseas. While this is a major procurement item, some argue the time-critical need for these vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan merits their inclusion in the supplemental.

Given the increasing levels of violence and civil unrest on the border of Mexico and the United States, it might be appropriate to increase counternarcotics activities to stem the cross-border drug trade and mitigate further violence. Overall, President Obama’s supplemental request is a good first step in the effort to fully account for U.S. war costs. If the FY 2010 budget fully funds combat operations, diplomatic activities and foreign assistance, the Obama administration will demonstrate that it is committed to honest and transparent budgeting.

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