'US concerned about Iraq war costs'
Sat Jul 9, 2011 3:49PM
Interview with Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Washington
The US House of Representatives has approved a 649-billion-dollar military spending bill, increasing the Pentagon budget while the country is facing austerity measures and huge debt crisis.
336 lawmakers voted for the measure while 87 voted against it. If approved by US President Barack Obama, it will raise the Pentagon's budget for the 2012 fiscal year by about USD 17 billion.
To shed light on the issue, Press TV has conducted an interview with Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress from Washington.
Press TV: First of all, can you tell us more about the bill's key provisions?
Korb: Well, as you pointed out, there are two parts to the budget: the regular budget, or the baseline budget, that is 553 billion and you weigh it on the war costs which is 119.
The Congress really may only make changes to the baseline budget. They did not touch the war budget and that USD 17 billion increase refers to the baseline budget. Actually if you look at the whole budget, it has come down because we have less troops in Iraq this year than we had it last year and the president is going to begin withdrawing troops this summer from Afghanistan and this budget goes into effect October 1.
So overall it will come down, the baseline budget will go up, as you pointed out, by about 17 billion.
Press TV: How come the only budget increase will be in the military sector?
Korb: Well, I think you raised a good point. The real question is in these negotiations that the president is having with the leaders of the Congress from both parties, will defense be put back on the table.
The president has said, starting next year the 2013 budget, he is going to be reducing it over the next ten years by about 400 billion dollars, so you would see a decrease in the baseline or regular budget next year according to his plan and then of course they may even cut it further depending on the negotiations that go on between the president and the Congress.
But the real reason is the concern that you are at war, you do not want to make any cuts, you have got a new secretary of defense and you want to make sure that he can develop a strategic plan before you decide what money to spend because this is former secretary Gates's budget.
Press TV: According to the US administration, the American troops in Iraq have finished their combat mission in the country. Is this end of the combat mission and the drawdown visible in the budget for the Iraq war?
Korb: Well, particularly in the Iraq war, the Iraq war portion of that 119 billion is about 45 billion dollars. So it is much less at the height of what they called a surge in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Iraq alone was about 150 billion dollars.