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Bush lines up $70-billion war bill
Demands signal conflict to be costlier

Washington, Oct. 27: The Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year, pushing total war costs close to $225 billion since the invasion of Iraq early last year, Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday.

White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton emphasised that final decisions on the supplemental spending request will not be made until shortly before the request is sent to Congress. That may not happen until early February, when President Bush submits his budget for fiscal 2006, assuming he wins re-election.

But Pentagon and House Appropriations Committee aides said the defence department and military services are scrambling to get their final requests to the White House Office of Management and Budget by mid-November, shortly after the election. The new numbers underscore that the war is going to be far more costly and intense, and last longer, than the administration first suggested.

The Army is expected to request at least an additional $30 billion for combat activity in Iraq, with $6 billion more needed to begin refurbishing equipment that has been worn down or destroyed by unexpectedly intense combat, another Appropriations Committee aide said. The deferral of needed repairs over the past year has added to maintenance costs, which can no longer be delayed, a senior Pentagon official said.

The army is expected to ask for as much as $10 billion more for its conversion to a swifter expeditionary force. The Marines will come in with a separate request, as will the Defence Logistics Agency.

The state department will need considerably more money to finance construction and operations at the sprawling embassy complex in Baghdad. The CIA's request would come on top of those. 'I don't have a number, and (administration officials) have not been forthcoming, but we expect it will be pretty large,' said James Dyer, Republican chief of staff of the Appropriations Committee.

Bush has said for months that he would make an additional request for the war next year, but the new estimates are the first glimpse of its magnitude. A $70 billion request would be considerably larger than lawmakers had anticipated earlier this year.

After the President unexpectedly submitted an $87 billion request for the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts last year, many Republicans angrily expressed sticker shock and implored the administration not to surprise them again.

This request would come on top of $25 billion in war spending allocated by Congress for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The two bills combined suggest the cost of combat is escalating from the $65 billion spent by the military in 2004 and the $62.4 billion allocated in 2003, as US troops face insurgencies that have proven far more lethal than expected at this point.

The senior Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said final figures may be shaped by the outcome of the presidential election and events in Iraq.

But assuming force levels will remain constant in Iraq at about 130,000 troops, the final Bill will be 'roughly' $70 billion for the military alone, he said.

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