Background Briefing by a Senior Administration Official on the Supplemental
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 24, 2003
6:10 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're still the on-time administration, but we were just at the congressional leadership of both parties, and they were unexpectedly inquisitive.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I said unexpectedly inquisitive --
I just mean it was a really good exchange and they asked a lot of questions.
And so somebody underestimated the time it would take to get here, and I
apologize for that.
Also we will operate on the basis of replenishing or reconstituting those munitions and other materials which are consumed back to their pre-war level -- not below, not above. About $8 billion for international operations, relief and reconstruction; $5 billion of that in bilateral assistance to supportive countries, or countries which may suffer consequences as a result of the war. On that list are countries in the region and allies not nearby, including many in Eastern Europe.
Q Do we have that list of that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will name -- let me give you a partial list: Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and I'll mention Colombia where terror and the drug trade intersect.
The relief and reconstruction of Iraq would commence during this period, we believe. And we'll be requesting a total of something like $3.5 billion in this supplemental; $2.5 billion in a fund for Iraq relief and reconstruction. Then there are other dollars that meet that description elsewhere. For instance, we have a substantial amount for oil field repair, which is accounted for in the Defense Department portion -- but about $3.5 billion to at least begin that process.
And the last piece, $4 billion-plus for homeland security, the defense of the homeland security at a time of increased threat. That would be divided roughly evenly between funding for federal protection, additional federal protection, increased Coast Guard operations being the largest and best example, but also federal facility protection may need to be enhanced during this time.
Separately we'll ask for funding at Justice, principally to support increased FBI activity.
Q What do you mean by separately?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In an additional fund.
Q Part of the $4 billion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In addition to the -- no, it is part of the $4 billion, I'm sorry. And another large piece for assistance to states and localities.
Q How much is that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's $2 billion.
Q How much for the FBI?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For the Justice Department total, $500 million. I think the largest portion of that is likely to support further FBI activities.
Q That's $2 billion for state and localities?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right.
Q And $1.5 billion for the other federal part --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct also.
Q New York had asked for a specific allocation when the Mayor came by last week. Is that included in that state allocation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there are no community specific allocations. But we feel it's a very large amount of money on top of what's been provided already in '03. And of course, just six months from now we have a very large request pending for fiscal '04. So Secretary Ridge first told us and just told the members of Congress who were here he's very comfortable that this is an ample and appropriate amount of money.
Q He'll determine how it's spent or allocated, Ridge?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, yes, but subject to an awful lot of
state and local discretion. The way we anticipate this $2 billion operating
is in grants to states, subject to really two fairly general conditions,
or basic conditions -- first, that the state is committed to protecting
specified sites. As you know, Governor Ridge and -- or Secretary Ridge and
his department have provided each state a list of sites they believe are
particularly important, and the states will have to assure him that they
have taken the necessary steps to see that those sites are guarded or secured.
Q Can I just -- I have two questions. First, the six- month period that you say contemplates the conflict and stabilization and the phased withdrawal, do you have a -- in all these numbers, is there a -- have you anticipated how long the actual conflict will last? That must be included in these numbers.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, Elizabeth, actually the -- we believe the cost model we're working with is flexible enough to give us a pretty good idea, within this very large number, of what would be necessary. Without going into more detail, I will just say that the differential in cost between days or weeks of actual combat and simply days on station there is not that large.
Q How large a force do you anticipate leaving behind?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to talk about numbers of people, except I will say that the assumptions built in here do include a significant withdrawal or redeployment of troops out of the region well within the six-month period.
Let me just give you a little fact that bears on Elizabeth's question. In round numbers, simply to transport and deploy the force that's there was something like $30 billion. By deploy I mean to go, be there and to come back. Just to stay there is several billion dollars more per month. And the point I'm making is that even if there had been a completely peaceful resolution, this would have been a very expensive venture. Containment, itself, which was some people's preferred option, was a very, very expensive matter.
Q How much do you know that other international contributors will be offering up? Do you have a figure yet?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do not.
Q Isn't this whole thing based on a 30-day projection for combat?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's based on six months of activity. And again, we think the model is reasonably predictive. It's not based on any fixed number of days. We're not --
Q And can I ask one other question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q For months the White House has said, we can't give you a price tag, too many variables. What happened in the last four days that made everything clear enough that you could offer this now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For one thing, we found out finally that Saddam was not going to simply go peacefully and do what the world community has been asking him to do for 12 years. That would have led to a very different package. Secondly, we found that there would not be an immediate surrender of the Iraq regime, that there would be some resistance. And at that point it appeared that we knew, as well as we were going to know, the scenario. And the President said, now we need to go quickly to Congress.
Q These figures for homeland security don't really come close to what Senators Schumer and Clinton wanted, or even what Mayor Bloomberg was asking for last week. What kind of reaction do you expect from them tomorrow?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I hope a rational one. First of all, this is just for the balance of this fiscal year. If you add the very large increase for '03, this number and the increase we've asked for '04, you quickly get to an enormous amount of money. I don't doubt that whatever number the President had proposed, somebody in Congress would have suggested a larger one. No number we could have proposed would have, I think, headed that off. But I would hope that folks who have been concerned about this will do two things -- one, will move quickly to help us secure this funding; and secondly, to really work with us to make sure that the funding stays concentrated on purposes that will defend the lives of Americans against terror.
In the some of the proposals to date and some of the legislation to date, the definitions have been far too loose, and much of the money is not going -- may not go to actually keep Americans safe from the threat we're really worried about.
Q What kind of reaction did he get today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry?
Q You were in this meeting for an awful long time. What kind of reaction did he get today from the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was a great exchange, I thought. You'd have to ask them, but a lot of -- all the questions were perceptive. All were, I think, in a spirit of cooperation. They had a very sincere interest in, I think in addressing this problem and addressing it quickly. And I'm sorry that it made us late here, but I was really very encouraged that that group, which included, of course, the leadership from both houses, both sides, as well as authorizing an appropriations leadership from all the relevant committees, wanted to stay that long and delve into it.
Q If I could follow up on Scott's question for a second. He asked what has happened the last four days or so that prevented you from giving these projections earlier. You mentioned two contingencies. One was that Saddam Hussein would not go peacefully, and the second really sort of the same as the first, that there would in fact be some resistance, that he wouldn't just surrender -- the Iraqi forces wouldn't just surrender. What prohibited you from giving the American people or giving the members of Congress, even on some private basis, the same -- different projections based on those contingencies, which surely you had in pocket.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, I gave you two contingencies, and you mentioned just one. The second one was that the regime might have been toppled, let's say, by the events of Thursday or some other intervening event. That would have led to a very different request than the one we'll be making tomorrow.
Q But still shareable, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Only in the sense that we would have had to share a very wide range. I don't think there was a lot of surprise. I didn't see a lot of surprise in that room today. I don't see a lot of surprise here at the general dimension of this request. And, frankly, it's not possible to share things privately, to answer your other questions.
Q How do you respond to the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just one second. This lady has had her hand up. And you've had one.
Q When did the President sign off on this? And also when do you envision beginning to tap into those frozen Iraqi funds that will be used for the good of the Iraqi people?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President formally signed off today. I don't know when the Iraqi funds might be accessed.
Q How do you respond to those who still say we can't afford this at a time when the President is trying to push a new round of tax cuts and do some other initiatives?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I respond in this way: The cost of September 11th is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars; $100 billion right out of taxpayers' pockets; and by the estimates we've made, $225 billion on up to $400 billion or $500 billion of damage done to the economy. So money spent to reduce the chance of further events, perhaps even more horrific than that one, is money well spent.
Secondly, I would mention the point I made earlier -- there is not cost-free alternative except to ignore this threat altogether, which the President ruled out long ago. And some in the world thought it would have been a good idea to gather our forces there, put some sort of pressure on Hussein and wait. That would have cost an amount not much smaller than this one just to do for a few months.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, $30 billion, as I said, simply to go and be there; $5 billion a month -- you can do the arithmetic.
Q But would you acknowledge that this will add to deficits, do you think?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All these questions have to be asked with the follow-on, compared to what? And compared to the leaving unaddressed the risk of terror and damage far worse than this, it's only the prudent thing to do. But I suppose the President would say, when it comes down to it, when the lives of Americans are at stake, dollars and cents is only a secondary -- a distant secondary consideration.
Q Is $63 billion the number that the Pentagon derived? Or is that the one that you changed after discussing it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was arrived at mutually. All these were with the departments involved.
Q Can I just ask you, what is the system that the U.S. government would use to try to get allied partners or coalition members to help defray the cost? How is the U.S. approaching that, if you're trying to get this passed by April 11th? Would you expect other countries to be helping by that period of time?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I really can't answer that. I think we -- I can only say that there's a full intention to try to involve others, to the extent they're willing and able. But we need to try to secure this so we can move forward aggressively, whether or not we have any new information about that.
Q Chairman Greenspan met with the economic team today. What it is the Chairman's perspective or the economic team's perspective about the impact of the war on the economy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has asked us to watch it every day and to keep him posted, and we've been doing that. And, yes, the Chairman has joined us more than once, which is always enormously illuminating. And it's too soon to tell. The early days have certainly not shown damage. In fact, there have been some positive aspects; but far too soon and far too fragile a situation.
Q Could you -- on the state and local part, sometimes big cities want to just be able to apply straight for their own grants. When you said state and localities, do you mean then that localities can just get money directly? You mean big cities?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There will be a requirement of pass-through to localities. But they will -- this will have to happen pursuant to a state application. It is important that this job be done in a coordinated fashion, not every locality and every department and every locality running off in its own direction.
Q And this is the per-cap formula, or something else?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to leave that for Governor Ridge.
Q On oil -- two oil questions. How much exactly for oil field repair? And then, is there anything in your numbers that assumes any offset from selling Iraq's oil?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: About half a billion dollars for oil field repair. And, no, there's no assumption, at this stage, of any offset.
Q Where does that money come up -- what slot did that come --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's in the Defense portion.
Q How does the cost compare to the Gulf -- the first Gulf War? How would you compare those costs?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are -- they are less. If this estimate proves accurate, they would be less. The Gulf War, today's dollars, was an $80 billion-plus affair. And of course, there are aspects to this request that weren't involved then. There was no need for homeland security, for instance, spending. And there was not the same need to support front-line states and other coalition partners. So it depends how you look at that money, but even if you counted it all, it would be slightly less -- again, provided that we're right or high with this number.
Q -- U.S. share, then, the net U.S. share?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The net U.S. share was fairly small.
Q Do you have a number?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: About $9 billion.
Q If Congress were to pass the White House budget, as well as this supplemental request, what will the deficit be next year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would be between $300 billion and $400 billion, closer to $400 billion. All of this money that we've talked about here would not be spent in this fiscal year. About two-thirds, or probably a little more than two-thirds is our best estimate.
Q But that would be close to $400 billion in fiscal 2004.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I said closer to $400 billion than $300 billion. Our forecast for this year is now about $316 billion, and as I say, a majority but not all of these funds would be spent in this year.
Q Is there anything on the homeland side for the TSA, extra money for them to fit in these explosive detection machines?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Nothing specific, Nancy. But again, we are asking for both money and flexibility for Secretary Ridge to address, in addition to the money for states, to address federal -- purely federal protective measures. He could well decide that TSA is one place to apply some of those funds.
Q The President -- he did a lot of traveling before the war started -- spoke very strongly and critically of Congress and its tendency to overspend. How strong a case did he make today to the leaders not to bloat this bill up, and what was the reaction?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did make that case, and the reaction, I think, was a respectful one. He wasn't challenged on that. We'll see, when Congress at large looks at the whole bill. The Defense Department, of course, converts most everything to an acronym, and they chose cost of the war -- (laughter) -- for this, as the COWS, cost of the war supplemental. And I hope that doesn't prove to apt, because we would like it not to be milked irresponsibly for purposes unrelated to this event.
Q Following that, how much do you -- do you expect Congress to add to this? And also, do you expect to have to put in another supplemental for this year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's our intention that there not be another supplemental this year. That's why we tried to capture all the costs, as best we could understand them. My hope is that this will prove more than ample to the task. But that's not knowable at this time. So we hope that Congress will also find it adequate, and move it quickly at the size we proposed.
Q If you could clarify the numbers here. One, you talked about the deficit between $300 billion and $400 billion. That's fiscal year '03.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's '03, that's right.
Q And in fiscal year '04, how do you expect it --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it would be coming down, based on what we know now. That is to say, no further supplementals, Congress staying within the President's spending limits, et cetera.
Q I just want to make sure we have the $75 billion down. We've got $63 billion, plus the $8 billion for the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q And then that brings up to $71 billion.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And $4 billion for homeland, in round numbers.
Q And that $8 billion -- it was confusing. There were two parts where you said that there would be money for other countries in the region. Is that only coming out of the $8 billion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Most of it is, Elizabeth, although I mentioned Pakistan as a coalition partner that would -- for which we have some --
Q Out of the $4 billion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, in essence -- out of the $63 billion.
Q How long would fighting have to go on before the amount in this request was exceeded? You said something about $30 billion just for the coming or going, and then another $5 billion per month. So does that mean four months of this, after which it will be -- is that a maximum sort of in the figure in here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No answer for that question. The Secretary of Defense has right along said that he thought that fighting was likely to last weeks, not months. And I've told you that we do foresee an end to the conflict within the six months, and the beginning of withdrawal of troops. That's about as detailed as I can give you.
Q But it's $5 billion per month?
Q Just for keeping people there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's about as much detail as I can give you.
Q You said the beginning of withdrawal. But I thought you said earlier that it envisioned a fairly substantial withdrawal before the end of the six months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It does. I say at least the beginnings of withdrawal. He's asking whether the fighting could run all through this period.
Q Just a couple of points. One, does this include the cost of replenishing the supply of Cruise missiles?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, it does.
Q And the other, could you just explain the rationale for why you didn't include the airline industry in this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll only say that like the rest of the economy, the President has us watching the condition of this industry very closely. And at this point, we don't have any recommendation to make. We know there are some in Congress who think that would be appropriate to do so, and we'll talk to them, if so.
Q That $5 billion a month is for keeping them there? Or is that $5 billion a month for combat operations as we're seeing now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, my point was that simply to go there and stay there would cost you -- to go there and get back, something on the order of $30 billion. Just to be there would cost several billion dollars.
Q Not fighting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct. So that I was simply trying to make the point -- I would urge you not to invest too much precision in these numbers. But the general point I think is an important one, which is to say that there was no inexpensive option at all. The cost of containment, or as some said, coercive diplomacy, and so forth, would have been very, very high all by itself.
Q Two questions: One, when you talk about international participation, is the assumption then that there will be some form of Tokyo Conference at which international donors will contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No such assumption.
Q So then how do you come to your estimate on reconstruction? And my second question was, is there a figure in here that accounts for the possible use of biological and chemical weapons?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is certainly a provision made for the -- a couple of them that go to the question of dismantling or disarming weapons of mass destruction. We've definitely included money that would be available for that because we do anticipate it.
Q And how many countries, sir, on your list? You named some, but how many are on the overall list of countries --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't count them, but I gave you the majority.
Q When you talk about the deficit between $300 billion and $400 billion, '03 or '04?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, '03 I think was the question. And then the follow-up question was, what about '04? And the answer to that would be, it would coming down, but a little hard to know from what number and by how much.
Q When you take six months of activity -- I know this is sort of -- can you just clarify that a little bit more? And, B, what about Turkey, how much are they going to get? And, C, the $100 billion that the Senate has taken out, do you expect that you'll be able to put that back in for fiscal year '04? And how do you get it to $5 billion a month, versus the CEO's $8 billion a month, or $9 billion -- I forget exactly, but theirs was more.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me just say there have been a lot of numbers floating around, all of them wrong. And a lot of estimates floating around, I think all of them good faith, but none of them as grounded in experience as what I believe we're presenting, which is based -- the biggest piece of it, of course, based on a very detailed cost model that's been informed by events from the Gulf to Kosovo, to training, to exercises during the last few years, to Afghanistan. And so we do think that we have a reasonable handle on what this activity does cost.
And unfortunately by now, I've forgotten A, B, C, and D.
Q Could you tell us how much is Turkey? Because you mentioned that's one of the countries.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One billion dollars.
Q How much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One billion dollars.
Q Was that -- is that a consideration for their overflight rights?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is -- I'm not going to comment on reasons for, I'll just give you the number.
Q In the Gulf War I comparison, you said $80 billion. Was that total U.S. taxpayer money? My understanding is a lot of that war was -- the bill was footed by other countries.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, we had a question over here. Ultimately, the vast majority of that was paid for by partners.
Q Can you please go over the numbers again, and keep them simple?
Q Make sure they add up.
Q Can we also get your estimates for the cost of September 11th, exactly, again? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, the simplest form, and the same form that I gave them before: $63 billion, $8 billion, and $4 billion, rounded off. And that's -- so that's, prosecuting the war, $63 billion; international operations, relief and reconstruction.
Q Okay, that's relief and reconstruction.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct. And a little over -- and $4 billion for homeland security.
Q But if $30 billion was the cost of transporting them there and getting them back, then are we to assume that the cost of the actual fighting is around $30 billion itself, or $33 billion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's not that simple. I have a question I haven't answered back here. You want to know about the cost of September 11th. The cost to taxpayers, this is reconstruction of New York City, all the additional additions now over -- moving into their third year, to homeland security, costs we never incurred before, and cost of the Afghanistan activity are over $100 billion. Cost to the economy, conservatively measured, the bottom end of our range is $225 billion, in terms of damage to industries, damage to property and slower economic growth.
Q That's federal dollars?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q The $100 billion from the Senate that they took out, do you expect to get it back in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Don't know. That process has several more steps to run.
Q -- that's your range.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. There were estimates from business groups earlier that were much bigger than that. But we think it's a fair and cautious estimate, yes.
Q So the $400 billion deficit for the end of 2004 plus the supplemental?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I didn't talk about $400 billion for any year. I said, between $300 billion and $400 billion for '03.
6:48 P.M. EST