The Blog

House Democrat: Pentagon IS Running out of Iraq Money

2:09 PM, Nov 19, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I've written about the effort by Congressional Democrats to unobtrusively ensure that the military effort in Iraq receives the funding it needs, so that they can continue to flout their defiance of the president when it comes to the Iraq appropriations legislation. Now Democrats are crying foul, because they believe that they gave the Pentagon plenty of flexibility to shift money between defense accounts to fund the Iraq war, but the Department of Defense disagrees.

Who's right? The Democrats who are trying to have their cake and eat it too, or DoD (which can't be expected to make things easy on the antiwar liberals running Congress)?

According to Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA), it's the Pentagon:

...the Pentagon currently can move only about $3.7 billion into accounts for war operations - roughly the equivalent of one week's worth of war funding.

That's largely true, says Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania, a former Navy admiral who worked on the Pentagon's Joint Staff before retiring and running for Congress. "Money is only so fungible among various accounts," he says. "Congress makes it that way."

Representative Sestak voted in favor of the ultimately unsuccessful proposal to fund war operations at $50 billion as long as troops start leaving soon. But he says he doesn't want Congress to micromanage the war via its purse strings and says the better option for Democratic lawmakers is to put such goal-post language in an authorization bill instead of insisting that it be part of an appropriations bill.

Sestak is neither 'soft on Iraq,' nor easily fooled. The former three-star admiral campaigned in 2006 on an agenda of getting all U.S. troops out of Iraq this year--a more aggressive position than most Democrats advocated at the time. He served as President Clinton's director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council. His voting record clearly shows his support for withdrawing from Iraq on a timetable.

As the highest-ranking former military officer ever to serve in the House, Sestak's opinion must be taken seriously--particularly in a case like this one, where it goes against his own policy goals and the political interest of his party.