The Blog

Obama's Underfunded Military

10:05 AM, Nov 6, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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Let's take a look at Obama's near-term grand aspirations for his "Overseas Contingency Operations." He wants to remove 90k troops from Iraq while at the same time increasing Army and Marine end strength by 22k troops. Presumably the president also plans to increase troop strength in Afghanistan, though by how many troops remains...unclear. All three are deeply expensive propositions, so where exactly is the money going to come from? The president's budget for Iraq and Afghanistan was $130 billion. That, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is a decrease from last year of approximately 10 percent, or $14 billion. It's an even sharper decrease from 2008, when President Bush signed a wartime supplemental of $188 billion to support the surge in Iraq.

The largest pieces of the defense pie are manpower and logistics, in that they require the most sustainment resources. In 2010, there will be more men and machinery in motion than at any time since the positioning phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom -- that is, more manpower and vastly more logistical demands than we've seen in years.

The funding numbers simply don't add up. There's no adjustment for inflation. The administration has not asked for additional funding to support, sustain, or equip the influx of 22,000 new troops. No one seems to know where the money to move troops out of Iraq is coming from, and with Secretary Gates confirming that military expenditures will essentially be "flat" for the next five years, the US military cutting procurement and delaying the reset of equipment already in service. The effects will be felt in both theaters of war.

In order to turn White House directives into reality, the Joint Chiefs have put in for a $50 billion war supplemental for FY2010, which is precisely the way the president said he wasn't going to fund the war. Unfortunately for Obama, he may have to choose between extending his egress timetable in Iraq or severely under-equipping CENTCOM forces. This is exactly why you don't make bold foreign policy decisions/campaign promises until you've got all the facts in front of you.