Clinton, Gates blast Congress on Iraq funding cuts
Two top Obama administration officals took aim at Congress on Tuesday for refusing to provide more money for American diplomats who will assume a bigger role in Iraq as the American military mission winds down.
"The Congress took a huge whack at the budget the State Department submitted for this process of transition. And it is one of these cases where, having invested an enormous amount of money [in the war], we are now arguing about a tiny amount of money, in terms of bringing this to a successful conclusion," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told an audience at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a non-profit group.
Gates added that the situation reminded him of the last scene in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" -- in which the U.S. government, having spent billions against the Soviet military in Afghanistan, then refused to put up a million dollars for Afghan schools.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lamented that as the U.S. withdraws the bulk of its forces from Iraq, "the military saves $15 billion. We ask for, you know, about one-tenth of that, and that's considered too much, even though there's savings accruing to our transitioning to the civilian side."
Their comments came during a roundtable on the administration's new global development strategy. Both Clinton and Gates have pushed for more funding for what they call a chronically underfunded State Department.
The State Department is taking over Iraqi police training from the military, and plans to open two new consulates and two temporary offices outside Baghdad to fill in for reconstruction teams. Because of the high level of danger, the State Department says it will have to hire thousands of additional security contractors.
Congress cut more than $500 million from the president's request for diplomatic and consular programs in Iraq in the 2010 supplemental spending bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee has sliced about $1 billion off the State Departments' 2011 request for operations in Iraq.
Lawmakers say that the budget is tight and that Iraq should be able to shoulder more of its own security costs.
Mary Beth Sheridan
| September 28, 2010; 6:31 PM ET
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