(NSI News Source Info) April 11, 2009: Vowing that it will be the last wartime supplemental, U.S. President Barack Obama sent Congress an $83.4 billion bill April 9 to cover the costs of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the second half of 2009. Money for four more F-22 stealth fighters is included in the request, but these are expected to be the last purchased by the U.S. In a speech Monday, Gates outlined his plans for the 2010 budget. Understandably, the headline item was his decision to buy only four more F-22 fighters. Designed to counter a Soviet plane that never got built, it flies high and fast, but is useless down low. Gates told Congress last year it hadn't flown a single combat mission in Afghanistan or Iraq. Most of the sum - $75.5 billion of it - is for the U.S. military. The rest is for other agencies, including the departments of State, Energy, Interior, Agriculture and Justice. Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicted easy passage by Congress. "I believe that there is very broad bipartisan support in the Congress for the decisions the president has made with respect to both Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said during a press conference. Congress voted in 2008 to spend $65.9 billion on wars during the first half of 2009. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Obama asked for quick passage of the bill and for lawmakers to "keep extraneous and unnecessary projects out of this legislation." Obama said that war funding after this will be included in the regular defense budget. The annual defense budget receives much more scrutiny on its way through Congress than wartime supplementals have. "After seven years of war, the American people deserve an honest accounting of the cost of our involvement in our ongoing military operations," Obama said. The biggest chunk of the supplemental is $38 billion to cover the cost of combat and stabilization operations. The bill provides $11.6 billion to repair or replace equipment that is worn or damaged in the two wars. Included in that is $2.4 billion to buy four more F-22 stealth fighters. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said April 6 he wants those to be the last four. He wants to end production after that. In addition to the stealth fighters, the $2.4 billion is to buy additional missile-firing Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and various upgrades for F-16s, C-130s, C-17s and C-5s. The Army would receive $8.1 billion to buy equipment, including $1.7 billion for combat vehicles such as Strykers and upgrades to Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1 tanks. Other Army equipment to be funded ranges from communications gear to UAVs, night-vision systems, mine-clearing vehicles, chemical and biological weapon sensors, and soldier protection equipment. The bill includes $1.5 billion for continuing to develop defenses against improvised explosive devices. A separate provision in the bill would make $2.7 billion available for buying mine resistant ambush protected vehicles. The Air Force would receive $1.8 billion to buy security and tactical vehicles, communications equipment, and various combat support items. The Marine Corps would be allocated $1.6 billion for weapons and equipment, including armor for Humvees, upgrades to light assault vehicles, bomb disposal gear, and other arms and equipment. There is $601 million for the Navy to buy MH-60 and UH-1Y helicopters and to upgrade F/A-18 fighters and CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters. Classified activities would receive $3.1 billion. The bill would provide $3.7 billion for foreign assistance and operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. In his letter to Pelosi, Obama said such funding "reflects the reality of our day and age. We need to use all the elements of our power, economic and diplomatic as well as military, to confront threats to our security." This is the 18th supplemental sought for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total allocated so far is $822 billion. In his letter to Pelosi, Obama said, "After years of budget gimmicks and wasteful spending, it is time to end the era of irresponsibility in Washington." Past supplementals have been controversial because members of Congress have added spending to them that is not directly related to the two wars. V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters have been funded through supplementals, even though V-22s were not used in the wars until recently and the F-35 is still far from operational. In 2007, lawmakers added Iraq withdrawal timetables to a supplemental bill, prompting President George W. Bush to veto it.
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