More Budget Flim-Flammery

MORE BUDGET FLIM-FLAMMERY….Today’s news about the latest budget request for the Iraq war is actually sort of peculiar:

The White House said Thursday that it planned to ask Congress for an additional $70 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving the cost of military operations in the two countries to $120 billion this year….The cost of military operations in 2006 is $35 billion higher than what Congress had estimated a few months ago the Defense Department would need this year.

More money I understand. But $35 billion more than expected? What’s up with that? There are at least two likely explanations:

As in previous years, the supplemental budget request also will ask Congress to pay for programs that are not directly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kaplan said part of the supplemental funding ? he did not say how much ? would go toward the Army’s effort to convert its forces into smaller, more deployable combat units.

Some budget experts have criticized the practice of including in “emergency” spending bills the costs of programs not directly tied to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, which lobbies for balanced budgets, said the Pentagon might intentionally be seeking more money than it needed for this year so that next year’s funding request would look small by comparison.

That sounds right to me. Some of the extra money is just a convenient way to inflate the normal Pentagon budget without getting too much pushback from Congress (it’s an emergency!), and some is just for show so that next year’s request will look smaller. Smoke and mirrors, baby, smoke and mirrors.