Panel I Of A Hearing Of The House Committee On The Budget: Costs Of Military Operations And Reconstruction In Iraq And Afghanistan
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Thank you, Chairman.
Deputy Secretary England, it's nice to have you back with us again. I think this is your third time here this year. I also wanted to say to Inspector General Bowen and my friend Joe Saloom, the last time I saw you two gentlemen was in Baghdad a few months ago, and it's nice to have you here, and I look forward to your progress reports as well.
Of the many pressing issues this Congress faces, none seems more urgent than our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the chairman just mentioned.
And it's obvious, from the many debates we've had this year here, there are serious members on both sides of the aisle and on different sides of the issues who recognize that whatever we do over the next several months will have a profound and lasting implication.
So it's important for all of us to measure our steps carefully, to avoid oversimplifications, to get away from the bumper-sticker phrases and accusations, and to keep an earnest debate about the real stakes involved in our decisions that we're going to make. And I know that is the intention of Chairman Spratt and all of our members here today.
It's also obvious that when we discuss the cost of these operations, we (mean ?) a great deal more than what can be measured in dollars. Nevertheless, it's fitting that the Budget Committee should examine this part of this subject.
The most tangible actions in this matter that Congress has taken, and will take again, involve budget-related matters, specifically providing funds for these operations for the troops themselves, their equipment, supplies, support and so on.
So the Budget Committee should evaluate what we've spent so far, how we've spent it, and what lessons can be learned from our choices. Early on in these operations, spending bills were truly supplemental. They were added on top of the president's budget.
At the urging of this committee, the president began including the estimated supplemental amounts in his annual appropriation submissions, and we're very pleased to see the DOD and OMB moving in this direction. This year the president's '08 supplemental request is again included in the budget proposed in February.
Unfortunately, the supplemental is not being considered as part of the DOD appropriations bill on the floor this week, which will make it very difficult for the troops to receive their funding at the start of the fiscal year, a concern that we should seriously consider at this hearing.
In addition, as a measure of credibility, Congress and the administration should continue to include future war costs in the regular budget process. In estimating what those costs will be, it is up to DOD to provide accurate and timely reporting of the monthly costs associated with the war, and I hope that that will be the case. If it is, as the chairman's chart suggests, then we should know it and we should budget for it.
The administration has presumably learned from both successes and mistakes during this period, including its reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. We should insist that today's witnesses explain what they've learned and what they've done to ensure that any mistakes of the past will not be repeated.
We are not going to answer every question about Iraq at this one hearing today. We're not going to resolve all the many issues, but we should be looking into the budget ramifications, and that's where we're going to be taking the course today.
But certainly we can make this hearing a useful contribution to the debate that's going on in Congress. I hope that's the case with all the members here today.
And Deputy Secretary England, I think you know the general take of the interest we have here in the committee, and I look forward to your testimony. I also look forward to hearing what mistakes that have been made have been corrected and how we're going to prevent those mistakes from happening again. And we also want to know how we are doing in the next 12 months, where things are going from a funding perspective, and how reliable funding streams you may or may not have as we consider the supplemental and the appropriations bill.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your indulgence.