President Bush is asking American taxpayers to spend $82 billion more, almost entirely to bankroll the war in Iraq, bringing the total cost to more than $200 billion. Members of Congress of both parties should and will support his request for the sake of our troops, who are under great pressure to quell the escalating violence.
The recent election advanced the democratic aspirations of the Iraqi people. However, the administration has refused to tell American taxpayers what comes next – how the United States will end the insurgency, train Iraqi security forces, rebuild infrastructure, fuel economic development, ease ethnic tensions – and ultimately bring U.S. troops home.
If the administration expects a blank check for $82 billion every year to tread water in Iraq, the American people should be aware of what they could buy for their security instead:
- $4 billion to provide the Coast Guard with the needed equipment to protect our coastlines. An additional $4 billion investment in the Coast Guard Deepwater Modernization program would cut in half the time it would take the Coast Guard to acquire new and modernize its old equipment so that it can more effectively secure our coastlines and harbors.
- $5 billion to protect our ports and waterways from attack. The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), which is designed to protect our ports and waterways from terrorist attacks, requires vessels and port authorities to develop security plans. An additional $5 billion over 10 years would enable the full implementation of the MTSA.
- $1 billion to implement a 100 percent screening system for air cargo. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) currently screens only 5 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft. An additional $1 billion – representing a roughly 25 percent increase in funding for aviation screening – would result in a system similar to passenger luggage screening for cargo.
- $10 billion to equip all of America's commercial planes with anti-MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) technology. An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles are still widely available at cheap prices on the world's black markets and pose a continual threat to our domestic aircraft. Viable onboard missile defense systems are available to airlines, but only our federal agencies have the resources to afford this technology and equip our planes.
- $2.6 billion to meet the security requirements of the nation's rail and public transit systems. Despite al Qaeda's attack in Madrid a year ago, Congress only provided $150 million in rail security funding. An additional $2.6 billion would help to close a critical vulnerability in our transportation system.
- $7.2 billion to more effectively track visitors to our country. The U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) is a data system that tracks the arrival and departure of non-U.S. citizens to and from the United States. The Government Accountability Office reports that the Department of Homeland Security has severely underestimated the cost of establishing smart ports of entry through the use of biometric technology. $7.2 billion over ten years would help to cover projected budget shortfalls.
- $3 billion per year to secure from theft the world's nuclear weapons-grade material. Experts estimate that a ten-year, $30 billion program backed by sufficient political and diplomatic investment would secure the nuclear weapons complex left over by the fall of the Soviet Union. Experts also estimate that another $50 million per year for several years would fund a "global cleanout program," aimed at removing dangerous nuclear materials from the most vulnerable nuclear sites worldwide.
- $9.6 billion per year to add four divisions to the Army. With commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army is increasingly stretched thin. The changing demands of the war on terrorism also require that we increase the size of the military to meet these needs over the longer term. Four additional divisions – or 80,000 soldiers – could be added to the Army over five years at a cost of $9.6 billion a year. A larger Army would help take the pressure off America's over-tapped National Guardsmen and Reservists.
- $7 billion to double the number of active-duty troops in the Special Operations Forces. The United States has roughly 50,000 Special Operations Forces, including support personnel. These elite military fighting units played a critical role in Afghanistan and continue to be highly effective in tracking down terrorists. Doubling the size of the Special Operations Forces to 100,000 would cost an extra $7 billion per year.
- $22 billion to begin to fulfill U.S. commitments to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The U.N. Millennium Development Goals seek to promote security by attacking poverty and instability in the developing world. The project works by funding often simple measures like providing mosquito nets, building roads, improving ports, and providing medicine for diseases like malaria and AIDS. In 2002, President Bush endorsed the Monterrey Consensus, which urged rich countries to increase their aid contributions to 0.7 percent of GDP. The U.S. currently gives just 0.15 percent – far short of the target set at the Monterrey conference. A $20 billion increase in U.S. development assistance would represent a significant first step toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals, preventing instability and promoting a safer, more prosperous world.
- $4 billion increase in the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. This year, the United States is contributing just $250 million to the Global Fund this year. The Global Fund provides a unique approach toward international health financing by working in coordination with governments, civil society, and affected communities. The Fund relies on local ownership and planning to ensure that those affected get the help they need. A $4 billion increase in U.S. funding would significantly strengthen the Global Fund and would place the United States at the forefront in the battle against AIDS and other deadly diseases.
- $3.5 billion to support democracy and development. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) promises to help developing countries advance their political, economic and social reform agendas. In FY2005, Congress provided the MCC with only $1.5 billion. The administration's own targets could be met with an additional $3.5 billion per year.
- $1 billion to help countries undergoing political transitions. Proposed by the Commission on Weak States and National Security, the "country-in-transition fund" would establish a rapid response corps of technical experts who could deploy rapidly to post-conflict situations in countries like Sudan and Haiti to assist in the technical aspects of reconstruction and governance.
- $1.36 billion shortfall in U.N. disaster assistance appeals. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which helps to coordinate international responses to humanitarian crises, appealed for $3.4 billion to respond to all humanitarian disasters in 2004 and received just 60 percent of the funds that it required. For $1.36 billion the United States could make up the shortfall and properly assist all those in desperate need of humanitarian disaster assistance.
- $556 million for the Global Peace Operations Initiative. The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) would expand global capacity for peacekeeping and stabilization efforts, particularly in Africa, and ultimately alleviate the burden on U.S. troops. The president originally committed $660 million over five years to GPOI, but only $104 million has been provided so far.
- $450,000 to fund a congressional inquiry to investigate the $8.8 billion missing from the budget of the Coalition Provisional Authority. An audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction found that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), under the leadership of L. Paul Bremer, cannot account for nearly $9 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money. Where did the funds go? At one government ministry, 8,206 guards were on the CPA's payroll, but only 602 could be accounted for. A congressional inquiry would hold the administration responsible for its financial irresponsibility.
$4 billion for Coast Guard Deepwater Modernization program. The deepwater program is a 20-year program acquisition program. To expedite the program and cut the acquisition time in half would require an additional $4.7 billion. The program was allocated $705 million for FY2005. A $4 billion increase would be needed to fully fund the program at the expedited 10-year timeframe.
$450,000 to fund a congressional inquiry: In 1998, the House conducted 38 investigations at a cost of $17 million, which is equivalent to about $450,000 per congressional investigation.
For more information on Iraq, browse our Making Progress in Iraq page.