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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Power of the purse?

Before everyone gets very excited about the ability of the congressional "power of the purse" to limit the Iraq war (or to prevent an Iran war), it might be worth remembering that the current Bush administration has already played fast and loose with public funds to make war unsupported by authority from the legislative branch.

On September 22, 2006, the Congressional Research Service published the latest update of its report, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11" by Amy Belasco. Warning: that's a pdf.

Belasco includes an interesting item about the costs of the Iraq war, on page 9:
From the initial $2.5 billion tapped from previous appropriations to prepare for the invasion, Iraq costs may rise to $100.4 billion in FY2006 to continue current military operations, foreign aid programs, embassy support, and VA benefits.9
Initial costs, you ask?

Footnote 9 helps:
9 This initial funding generated controversy in 2004 because it appears that few in Congress were aware that DOD used $2.5 billion from funding appropriated before the resolution [p. 10] authorizing the use of force was passed. A note in a DOD table listing monthly obligations for Iraq from the FY2003 and FY2004 supplementals stated that an additional $2.5 billion for Iraq was available from “prior year funds” (presumably P.L. 107-38, P.L. 107-117, or P.L. 107-206, the previous two supplementals). CRS could not obtain details on this spending.
As recent public hearings have demonstrated, it's easy to lose track of a billion dollars or two (or 20) in the midst of a big war.

Hat tip to Jonathan Schwarz, who first noted this discrepancy in late 2005.

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