Friday, December 12, 2008

Obama: A not-too-radical start

The signs are accumulating, beyond the individuals named to head the cabinet departments, agencies, and the Executive Office of the President, that the Obama administration is not going to be as radical as many supporters thought would be the case.

Central to this conclusion are the statements by key leaders in the House of Representatives advocating continued increases in the funds allocated to the Department of Defense. The regular Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Defense Appropriations legislation includes $65.9 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This week, Representative John Murtha (PA), chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, told reporters that he expected the Bush White House would submit a FY2009 supplemental defense request for $82 billion, But Murtha indicated that he would be open to adding more money to the administration’s request. That would make the $147.9 billion a floor rather than a ceiling. Informed observers also told the Congressional Quarterly that the Joint Chiefs of Staff will submit a place-holder budget (due in early February) of approximately $584 billion.

All the condemnation of supplementals by the Democrats in the 110th Congress may be having some effect, for the FY2009 appropriation ($147.9 billion) to fight the “global war on terror” stands at $40 billion less than in FY2008. (This, of course, is before Congress gets the opportunity to work its will on the measure.) Conversely, the draft FY2010 Defense Appropriations place-holder from the Pentagon is $57 billion higher than the last previous administration budget estimate. This already is an increase overall of $17 billion, but the supplemental is almost sure to be more than $82 billion.

This means that in considering the defense appropriations measures that will come before Congress in calendar 2009, there will again have to be a double-barreled effort. To keep a lid on the supplemental and not include “bridge funding” for warfighting in the regular appropriations for 2010.


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