Bill by Key Senate Panel Increases Funding for Afghanistan's Army, Police

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2009

A key Senate subcommittee on Wednesday trimmed $900 million from the amount requested by the Obama administration to support Afghan security forces next year, but the $6.6 billion approved would still be a 20 percent increase over this fiscal year.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has indicated that improving the Afghan army and police is central to defeating the Taliban insurgency, providing security for the country's population and allowing broader reconstruction to proceed.

In announcing details of the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense, said Wednesday: "While we strongly concur with the administration that increased funding is needed to train and equip our Afghan army and police forces, it makes no sense to provide more funding than can be spent when other shortfalls exist."

Members of the subcommittee said the administration had agreed that the $7.5 billion it originally requested for Afghan security forces could not be spent in the 2010 fiscal year. The panel decided instead to increase by $1.2 billion the funding for "baby MRAPs," all-terrain vehicles that safeguard troops from improvised explosive devices.

Overall, the subcommittee's bill, which would provide $636.3 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, is $3.9 billion less than the amount requested by President Obama. Of the funds, $128.2 billion is for "overseas contingency operations," essentially meaning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the Bush administration, funds for the wars were approved in supplemental appropriations bills, a process that critics said obscured the full cost.

In a separate action Wednesday, the subcommittee joined the House in adding funds to the appropriations bill to purchase an additional 10 C-17 transport airplanes. The Obama administration has said it does not need the planes.

"We expect that in re-examining its airlift fleet the Defense Department will eventually conclude that purchasing additional C-17's . . . is the right solution" for meeting the increasing need for airlifts, Inouye said in a statement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who noted that 4,000 Boeing workers in Long Beach will now keep their jobs, hailed the subcommittee's decision as "good news for our workers and our military service members."

Inouye said the subcommittee had cut by $300 million, compared with last year, the value of earmarks pushed by members, reducing the number overall by "nearly 200 projects." He said, "We hope that our colleagues can support this package with its streamlined approach to earmarking."

Because Inouye is also chairman of the full Senate Appropriations Committee, his subcommittee's decisions are expected to easily pass the full panel on Thursday and be sent to the Senate floor.

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