White House sends $75 billion war-funding request to Congress

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The White House sent Congress a 2015 war-funding request on Thursday of nearly US$60 billion (S$75 billion), a drop of US$20 billion from the current fiscal year after President Barack Obama decided to withdraw all but 9,800 troops from Afghanistan by Dec 31.

Obama, in a letter to the House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, asked for US$58.6 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas military activity, the smallest Pentagon war-funding request in a decade.

In addition to funding the Afghanistan war, the request also seeks US$500 million to support Syria's moderate opposition, US$1.5 billion to support stability in the countries bordering Syria that have been flooded with refugees and US$140 million for non-operational training in Iraq.

The administration request was about US$20 billion less than the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept 30, and US$20 billion less than the US$79.4 billion place-holder figure in its budget submission to Congress in February.

The request to Boehner also included US$1.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds for the State Department, bringing its total request to US$7.3 billion.

The department had asked for US$5.9 billion for overseas operations in its February budget.

The Overseas Contingency Operations request on Thursday included US$5 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund and US$1 billion for a European Reassurance Initiative.

About US$5 billion of the total would fall under the Pentagon's budget and the remainder under the State Department.

The White House said the counterterrorism fund would be used to respond to emerging threats by "empowering and enabling our partners around the globe."

About US$2.5 billion would go to train and equip nations fighting terrorist groups that threaten the United States and its allies.

The fund, for example, would cover the cost of sending US commandos to train troops in other countries.

The administration proposed spending up to US$140 million to provide assistance to Baghdad, including non-operational training to help Iraqi forces address shortfalls in intelligence gathering, air sovereignty, logistics, maintenance and combined arms operations.

Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the funding request, saying the US$500 million to support Syrian opposition members matched language supported by members of his panel.

Representative Buck McKeon, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said his panel would examine the request closely, especially the new counterterrorism fund, but warned: "Congress is not a rubber stamp."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.