WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress started to digest a new Bush administration request of $80 billion to bankroll wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its top budget analyst yesterday projected $855 billion in deficits for the next decade even without the costs of war and President Bush’s Social Security plan.
Three senior administration officials said the White House would request $80 billion for the wars, or a bit more, soon after Bush submits his budget for fiscal 2006 to lawmakers on Feb. 7. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program has not yet been announced, said $75 billion of it would be for U.S. military costs, with the rest including funds to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan forces, aid the new Palestinian leadership, build an embassy in Baghdad and help victims of warfare in Sudan’s Darfur province.
Congress approved $25 billion for the wars last summer. Using figures compiled by the Congressional Research Service, which prepares reports for lawmakers, the newest request would push the totals provided for the conflicts and worldwide efforts against terrorism past $300 billion. That includes $25 billion already provided for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a written statement, Bush said the money would support U.S. troops and help the United States “stand with the Iraqi people and against the terrorists trying desperately to block democracy and the advance of human rights.”
Amid the White House’s preparations, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the government will accumulate another $855 billion in deficits over the next decade.
The projection, for the years 2006 through 2015, is almost two-thirds smaller than what congressional budget analysts predicted last fall. The drop is due largely to quirks in budget estimates that required the agency to exclude future Iraq and Afghanistan war costs and other expenses. Last September, the 10-year deficit estimate was $2.3 trillion.
The CBO also projected this year’s shortfall will be $368 billion. That was close to the $348 billion deficit for 2005 that it had forecast last fall. The two largest deficits ever in dollar terms were last year’s $412 billion and the $377 billion gap of 2003.
The budget office estimated that if U.S. troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan declines gradually after 2006, those wars would add $590 billion to deficits over the next decade. Including war costs, this year’s shortfall should hit about $400 billion, the budget office said.