Money to help pay for Operation Desert Shield is coming in at "an astonishingly low rate" from U.S. allies, and the Bush administration is doing little to solicit more support, two House Democrats said Saturday.
"We're putting up a red flag today," House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt said, warning the president he must be more aggressive in securing financial backing from America's allies if he wants Congress to approve additional spending.Gephardt told a news conference the administration will seek another $20 billion in funds for the Persian Gulf operation early next year.
"One of the criteria upon which Congress and the country will judge the president's request is the level of commitment of our allies, both in manpower and money," the Missouri Democrat said.
Gephardt, along with Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., presented figures estimating the costs of Desert Shield in fiscal year 1991 at $36.85 billion.
They said America's main allies in the anti-Iraq coalition - Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Korea - have pledged only $10.62 billion, or 29 percent, leaving the United States to pay the other 71 percent.
Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson, D-Calif., head of a 19-member House group that returned to Washington on Saturday from a Persian Gulf tour, played the same theme at a news conference at Andrews Air Force Base.
He said allies "ought to contribute more to this undertaking," pointing particularly to the Japanese and Germans. "This a concern for all of us in the free world," he said.
The lawmakers said that of Germany's $1 billion pledge, more than 43 percent is in old East German military equipment that is no longer of use to them. Saudi Arabia has promised $4 billion while earning an estimated $43.8 billion in windfall profits from rising oil profits during the fiscal year beginning in October, Gephardt and Schumer said.
They said Japan gets 64 percent of its oil from the gulf, but is bearing only 5 percent, $2 billion, of the cost of the U.S. military operation.
The $36.85 billion figure was calculated by taking the original Defense Department estimate of $15 billion and multiplying it by Congressional Budget Office estimates of cost increases due to Bush's later decision to deploy another 200,000 troops in the region.
Schumer said the figures "document the astonishingly low rate at which our allies are sharing the burden in the gulf."
He said that while Bush has "moved mountains to build and sustain support for our goals in the gulf, he has barely lifted a finger to obtain the necessary financial support from our allies." Schumer said the other coalition members should be paying at least half the cost.
Gephardt faulted the administration for not seeking more allied support after his decision to add another 200,000 U.S. troops in the gulf. "It has almost been an afterthought with the administration."
Presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater on Friday said the White House was pleased with the cooperation of other coalition members and would continue to work with them.
The Pentagon, after releasing figures earlier in the week showing that the allies so far had delivered only a small portion of promised financial support, on Thursday said it had unintentionally understated the value of allied nations' contributions.
"We're very pleased with what our allies are doing," Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said.
But Gephardt said, "I've told the president that if body bags go back to the United States they've got to go to London, Paris and Cairo as well."