Administration fends off demands for war estimates
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number of U.S. troops that would be required to administer Iraq after a U.S.-led military campaign is "not knowable" because of the large number of variables in how a conflict might unfold, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.
He also said it "makes no sense to try" to come up with cost estimates for a war in Iraq because the variables "create a range that simply isn't useful."
"We have no idea how long the war will last. We don't know to what extent there may or may not be weapons of mass destruction used," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. "We don't have any idea whether or not there would be ethnic strife. We don't know exactly how long it would take to find weapons of mass destruction and destroy them."
"Until someone decides that there has to be a conflict and that the conflict's over, you're not going to know the answer," he said, adding that people who tried to estimate the cost of the 1991 Gulf War beforehand "were flat wrong by an enormous amount."
However, Rumsfeld said the post-war troop commitment would be less than the number of troops required to win the war. He also said "the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces, I think, is far from the mark."
Rumsfeld's comments came in response to a question about an estimate of post-war troop strength given in a congressional hearing Tuesday by the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shineski. Under questioning by lawmakers, Shineski offered the estimate that an occupying force might involve several hundred thousand U.S. troops.
In testimony Thursday before the House Budget Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Shineski's estimate was "way off the mark," noting that other countries would take part in an occupying force and share the financial burden of helping Iraqis build a new government.
Wolfowitz deflected questions from lawmakers trying to pin down firm numbers for potential costs of a war and postwar efforts, saying, "I think it's necessary to preserve some ambiguity of exactly where the numbers are."
Virginia Democrat Rep. James Moran, complained, "I think you're deliberately keeping us in the dark. We're finding out more from the newspapers than we are from you."
Sources: White House to ask for up to $95 billion
Administration sources told CNN the White House is working on an emergency spending plan and may ask Congress for as much as $95 billion. Pentagon sources put the likely request at closer to $60 billion, a figure also cited by some officials at the White House.
The Pentagon portion of any supplemental request would be on the order of $60 billion and would cover costs through the end of September, the Pentagon sources said.
The sources said the money would cover the costs of the war itself, improvements to Turkish military bases, maintaining troops in the region, as well as providing for postwar security, and locating and destroying weapons of mass destruction.
Administration sources noted that any supplemental request could be higher if the costs for various reconstruction projects in a postwar Iraq -- which wouldn't fall under the Pentagon portion -- are included.
Wolfowitz said that numbers will be provided at an "appropriate point," but that "we're not in a position to do that right now."
President Bush and other officials have argued that the costs of efforts related to Iraq would be less than the cost of terrorist groups attacking the United States with weapons of mass destruction obtained from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Administration sources said two months of war would cost as much as $40 billion and that a peacekeeping force in Iraq would cost at least $6 billion a year. The administration is also planning to deliver billions of dollars in aid to Turkey, Jordan, Israel and other countries in the region.
A shorter war would mean less spending, but the costs could be higher if Iraq uses chemical or biological weapons on U.S. troops, or if it sets fire to oil fields as it did in Kuwait in the Gulf War.
Iraq's oil reserves could be used to pay for long-term reconstruction costs, but the White House says oil money would not be used to pay for the war itself.
The administration's $2.2 trillion budget proposal for the 2004 fiscal year, which projects a record federal deficit of $304 billion, does not include the cost of a war with Iraq in its $380 billion Pentagon request.
In September, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey estimated the cost of a war at more than $100 billion. After Lindsey was asked to resign in December, Mitch Daniels, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said it was impossible to know how much a war might cost.
The 1991 conflict cost about $60 billion, but U.S. allies paid more than 80 percent of the cost. Administration officials said they're not expecting that kind of help this time.
A report from the Congressional Budget Office released last fall was far more modest in its estimate of the cost of war with Iraq. That report said it would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion to deploy troops to Iraq and that it would take up to another $9 billion a month to run the war.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King and Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.