A new study by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the real troop increase associated with President Bush’s escalation policy could be as high as 48,000, more than double the 21,500 soldiers that Bush has claimed.
Last night on MSNBC, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman reported that White House counsellor Dan Bartlett had written him in an email, “[W]e don’t agree with the CBO estimate and analysis. We think that there are already enough support troops on the ground there that very few will be required.” Watch it:
In fact, the CBO report considers Bartlett’s claim and rejected it. “Army and DoD officials have indicated that it will be both possible and desirable to deploy fewer additional support units than historical practice would indicate,” the report states. “CBO expects that, even if the additional brigades required fewer support units than historical practice suggests, those units would still represent a significant additional number of military personnel.”
Fineman added that if the administration is going to “flat-out deny” the CBO report, “then the question’s going to be, ok, if it’s not 15,000, how many is it? And where are your plans for actually knowing how many people you are putting in there? It undermines the whole notion that they know precisely what they are doing at this moment.”
FINEMAN: But most of the American public does not back it. Most of the American public, if they heard any number, heard the 20,000 number. Now 35,000 to 48,000 is a big difference in total, and it puts, if it’s up at 48,000, it puts the total in Iraq at, I think, about if not over 200,000. So I don’t think politically it’s good news for the White House in any way, shape, or form in a time when they are desperately trying to keep a Republican coalition together up on the Hill and having a lot of trouble doing it, I can tell you, because it was chaos up there this afternoon.
OLBERMANN: There’s a lot of bad news in this for everybody, though, but aren’t the Democrats on Capitol Hill going to catch hell, and the media? I mean, how did everybody miss the obvious, that they need support troops at a ratio of better than one-to-one.
FINEMAN: Well, you think we would know how to be very specific about the labels, and we weren’t. Um, 21,000 troops — is that combat troops? That term wasn’t always used because, especially in today’s Army, what they call the tooth-to-tail ratio, fighter-to-support ratio, is very high, and often there are more support troops than there are actual fighting troops.
Now, I spoke to the White House people about this. I exchanged e-mails with Dan Bartlett, who is the communications director, and he said to me we don’t agree with the CBO estimate and analysis. We think that there are already enough support troops on the ground there that very few will be required. But that’s not what the CBO says, and keep in mind that the CBO is an independent nonpartisan research organization of the Congress, and, you know, they’re pretty neutral up there. I think there will be debate over it. If the administration’s gonna just flat-out deny it, then the question’s going to be, ok, if it’s not 15,000, how many is it? And where are your plans for actually knowing how many people you are putting in there? It undermines the whole notion that they know precisely what they are doing at this moment.