OMB Director Josh Bolten yesterday issued a report detailing the Bush administration's spending plans for the $18.6 billion allocated for reconstructing Iraq. The report highlights the administration's initial – and ongoing – failure to plan for post-war Iraq and coordinate funding and efforts with the international community. It also highlights what some commentators have called increasingly desperate measures to disengage from Iraq before the fall elections.
- They just want to get it done, not get it right. According to the report, the administration now plans to spend more than $450 million on democracy building programs – four times as much as estimated in November 2003. This switch in plans is indicative of an approach that has lurched from priority to priority. And no amount of money can create the security conditions or end the political tensions necessary for their ambitious seven month transfer to democracy to take hold.
- America alone continues to pay for Iraq's reconstruction. The report reveals that the U.S. remains virtually the only funding source for reconstruction, with roughly $13 billion to be spent in FY 2004 and more than $5 billion in FY 2005. OMB says nothing about the administration's track record in convincing other nations to meet their reconstruction pledges, saying only that "detailed information on what activities other nations will support is not yet available."
- American taxpayers haven't heard the last of this. This report – and its new spending priorities – comes only two months after the administration put a wholly different reconstruction budget on the table. The only clear thing is that the president will come back to the taxpayers for more money next fall.