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William Arkin Is Shrill!

William Arkin on the stupidity that is Bush defense budget planning:

A Tale of Two Budgets - Early Warning: William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security: A Tale of Two Budgets: I rarely have written about the defense budget, seeing it almost as a political side show to policy, with twists and turns requiring constant attention and special expertise to decipher.

The budget, moreover, seems secondary to war itself, the domain solely of battling bureaucrats who have little impact on -- and hardly care about -- what happens in the real world.

Somehow, while we weren't looking, the annual defense budget bloated to a half a trillion.

Congress just administers the madness, adding line items in a behind the scenes ritual: pork mongers and Cunningham's on the take, Democrats trying to prove their martial spirit by arguing for even more, junior secretaries of both parties offering brilliant amendments to show that they care about the troops more still.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has hit upon a perfect device for both public control and executive autonomy. He has turned crisis into a permanent state of excess. "Emergency" funding has now become the regular state of affairs. We have, in fact, two defense budgets, a regular budget that receives some scrutiny and is somewhat limited, and an emergency supplemental that grows ever larger without much outside oversight.

The budget situation doesn't threaten to bankrupt America. And people seem only too happy to pay to keep the military over there, cowed in an endless post-September 11, 2001, offering.... Since September 11, the defense department and the national security bureaucracy has been submitting two budgets to Congress: a normal authorization and appropriations request and a supplemental or "additional" request for "emergency" funding of the war on terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan.... For five years now, the Pentagon has been declaring a budget emergency, operating with an annual supplemental... in a Pentagon version of pork barrel spending, it also hides favorite and controversial research, development and procurement programs from regular scrutiny.... The supplemental budget and a set of supplemental budget amendments are submitted to Congress without the detailed written justifications that accompany the regular budget.

It is the absence of a paper trail, a kind of bureaucratic offering to the Congressional purse holders, which has resulted in a growing sense of disquiet on Capitol Hill.... In June, the Senate approved by 98-0 an amendment by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to require the president to request funding for Iraq in its regular, annual budget submission. The Senate-passed fiscal year 2007 budget resolution put a cap of $90 billion on total emergency funding.

Last week, according to reporting in Inside the Pentagon and by Reuters, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England directed the military services to base their requests for funding of the "longer war against terror" on supplemental budgets. England told the services that such requests should not be limited to Iraq, Afghanistan or other direct operations, but should include as well general modernization programs. England's avoidance of the regular budget is because regular annual defense spending (to the tune of $500 billion) is both under the control of Office of Management and Budget caps and Congressional oversight...