Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen is calling for the elimination of emergency supplemental spending used to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is instead pushing for the inclusion of war funding in the annual defense budget. In the DefenseNews.com article, “Mullen Wants Supplemental Spending Rolled Into Annual Baseline Budgets,” he argues that supplemental appropriations “have taken on, in many ways, a life of their own.” Often times these supplemental bills have provided more than just emergency funds for war fighting, and his solution is to simply get rid of them all together.
In reality, this “solution” would only cause more problems. The total elimination of supplemental appropriations would, “constrain regular defense spending and tighten funds available for modernization, procurement, personnel, and other anticipated expenses,” counter Heritage scholars Dr. James Carafano, Mackenzie Eaglen and Baker Spring in “Evaluating Emergency Supplemental Spending: Advice for Congress.” They acknowledge that supplementals have been abused for funding not directly associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supplementals should be limited to covering the cost of contingency operations, while broader issues like military training and readiness should be covered by regular defense spending. The annual budget, however, cannot accommodate all the funding necessary for the military’s ongoing missions. Hence, support of supplementals coincides with the support our armed forces.
Admiral Mullen and Heritage do agree on one fundamental issue relating to defense spending though. Both advocate a baseline defense budget of 4 percent of GDP, exclusive of supplemental funding, in order to meet national security requirements. More can be read about this initiative in the Heritage paper, “Providing for the Common Defense: Four Percent for Freedom” by the Honorable Jim Talent and Mackenzie Eaglen.