Of the nearly $700 billion Congress has approved for GWOT activities--including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--since 2001, 90 percent have come from "off budget" supplemental emergency spending bills. This is viewed by the Pentagon as free money. Annual war costs have more than doubled in recent years, helped in large measure by a 2006 Pentagon directive that allowed supplemental requests to include anything related to GWOT and equipment lost in combat to be replaced by not-yet-ready-for-primetime weapons still in development. These fiscal feeding frenzies also have a tendency to pick up pork as they roll through Congress – producing war spending with side orders of whiz-bang gadgetry, sugar beet subsidies and ewe lamb replacement.
We have long argued that emergency spending bills should meet the government's own definition of emergency: sudden, temporary, unforeseen and urgent. After several years, war funding isn't sudden, temporary or unforeseen, even if it is urgent. But supplementals are attractive because they are not subject to the same caps as other sources of discretionary spending. This means DoD can pile emergency funding on top of their nearly $500 billion regular budget, allowing unnecessary programs and weapons to snowball. Worse, the omission of war costs also allows the White House to produce rosier deficit projections by ignoring a whole column of expenses.
No "emergency" – especially one that is six years old with no end in sight – should allow a government to evade budgeting for the future. The President and the Defense Department aren't fooling anyone by conducting this war off the balance sheet. They owe it to every American citizen to come clean.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Egregious "emergency" spending corrupts the federal budget process - SendMeRSS
Taxpayers for Common Sense' Weekly Wastebasket newsletter features an article on the federal budget process undergone each fiscal year in Washington. Much of the "emergency" spending in the GWOT isn't actually for emergencies, as urgent as they might seem. This extraordinary budgetary procedure is being used far too often, and causes large inaccuracies in the final budget deficit numbers.
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