Lawmakers challenge spending billions more on wars

By JAMES ROSEN and JOHN MORITZ McClatchy Washington Bureau Published:

WASHINGTON (MCT) -- Pentagon leaders faced a bipartisan barrage of skeptical questions Wednesday from lawmakers over President Barack Obama's request for $58.6 billion in emergency funds for conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and beyond.

Republican and Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee said Americans are war-weary after almost 13 years of conflict in South Asia and the Middle East, fearful of being drawn into new wars and mistrustful of the Obama administration.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said he

opposed giving Afghanistan tens of billions in new money because so much U.S. aid over the last decade has been lost to corruption.

"I look at the absolute waste of life first and money second, and here you are asking for more money," Jones told Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and other senior Pentagon officials. "American taxpayers are absolutely frustrated and broke because of these overseas activities. I do not understand how you can sit here today and ask for this money with such waste, fraud and abuse going on across Afghanistan."

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who lost both legs in November 2004 during combat in Iraq, criticized the funding proposal, called the Overseas Contingency Operations request, for coming just months after the Pentagon's basic budget package.

The debate Wednesday again revealed a split among Republicans over how long the "war on terror" that Bush proclaimed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should continue, and at what cost.

Even some Obama allies on the committee said the president needs to do a better job of explaining to Congress and to the public why the extra money for the overseas missions is needed, especially his controversial request for $500 million to train moderate Syrian rebels.

"You need to do better than (saying), 'It's classified, so we really can't talk about it,' " said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the armed services panel's senior Democrat. "For the United States Congress to vote to train and equip rebel forces is a big damn deal. This is more for the White House (than the Pentagon), but sell it, because if you don't, we can't pass it."

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.