Defense secretary disputes CBO findings on troop numbers, costs
Defense Secretary Robert Gates Friday disputed the Congressional Budget Office's finding that the number of troops being sent to Iraq under President Bush's "surge" and the cost of that effort were much higher than the administration said.
Gates said the CBO report "dramatically overstates" both the cost of the force increase and the number of personnel to be sent. The budget office reported that Bush's planned force increase would require up to 48,000 additional troops and cost up to $27 billion.
At his second session with Pentagon reporters, Gates said the financial figures they presented are only for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, while CBO estimated the cost through 2009. He repeated the prediction he made to Congress that the force increase would last months rather than years. And the secretary said it would require only 10 to 15 percent of the 15,000 to 28,000 additional support troops that CBO's report said it would take to back up the increased combat force of 21,500.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace agreed and added that the Pentagon's cost estimates took into consideration the time it would take to get all six combat brigades into Iraq.
The CBO's conclusions appear to be at odds with statements made Jan. 23 by Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker, who told the House Armed Services Committee that he did not anticipate needing additional support troops in Iraq. The service's reconfigured combat brigades, he said, have four support battalions embedded inside them.
Asked about the apparent conflict between Gen. George Casey, the current commander of coalition forces in Iraq and his planned replacement, Gen. David Petraeus, over whether all six brigades are needed, Gates said the differences between the two Army generals "may not be as big" as it appears.
Pace noted that Casey, the nominee to be the next Army chief of staff, was the first to ask for additional troops last summer. And he said Petraeus might decide he does not need the full 21,500 troops once he is in Iraq and can see the effect of the first reinforcements. Gates and Pace also disagreed with a new National Intelligence Estimate that said for the first time that the conflict in Iraq included elements of civil war.
Gates said he saw four different conflicts in Iraq, including the Sunni versus Shia sectarian violence in Baghdad, but did not see the large-scale fighting and the split in the government and the army that he would consider a civil war.
The two Pentagon leaders vigorously denied that recent administration statements and actions were preparing for a war with Iran.
"The president has made it clear, the secretary of State has made it clear and I have made it clear, we are not planning for a war with Iran," Gates said.
He said the nation was using military means inside Iraq to counter Iran's supply of a particularly deadly form of improvised explosive devices that are killing U.S. troops, and was using diplomatic means to stop Tehran's nuclear enrichment program. He and Pace would not say whether there was evidence the supply of the armor-penetrating IEDs was sanctioned by Iran's leaders.