(Photo courtesy of Dept. of Defense)

Iraqi government resources and not U.S. taxpayer dollars will be the first source of funds to rebuild Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a Senate panel March 27.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rumsfeld said the $74.7 billion supplemental budget request that President George W. Bush submitted to Congress earlier this week "is not the cost of the war" nor the cost of rebuilding Iraq. "We can’t know how long the effort in Iraq is going to last, and we certainly can’t tell what it is going to cost," he asserted. Of the total amount, $62.6 billion would go for the military effort. About $3.5 billion has been earmarked for reconstruction.

Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security, said the $3.5 billion requested for his department would allocate $2 billion for state and local terrorism preparedness and prevention. Those funds will help improve protection at "critical infrastructure facilities" and elsewhere, he said. Additionally, $450 million is requested for states to augment security at critical infrastructure facilities during the period of hostilities with Iraq.

Rumsfeld noted that President Bush recently seized frozen Iraqi assets in the U.S. "so that they can be put to use to rebuild the country.

"Once Saddam Hussein is gone, the U.S. will work with the Iraqi Interim Authority that will be established to tap Iraq’s oil revenues, the funds Iraq is owed in the [United Nation’s] ‘oil for food’ program, and other Iraqi resources to fund their reconstruction effort," Rumsfeld said.

Reconstruction will require a "significant" international effort, said Rumsfeld. "Already, a number of countries have indicated that they want to help with reconstruction and stability in a post-Saddam Iraq," he added. "We do not know how the international effort will unfold and the specifics of what each country is willing to offer." But Rumsfeld also noted that France "has announced it will veto any new Security Council resolution and block coalition efforts to give the U.N. an appropriate role in the post-Saddam reconstruction effort."

With so many unknowns, "we will need some flexibility" in how the supplement funds are spent, Rumsfeld said.

Democrats were quick to criticize that proposal.

"Handing a check to the Secretary of Defense or Homeland Security or the Attorney General without specifying how it is to be spent is not a responsible exercise of the congressional power of the purse," argued West Virginia’s Robert C. Byrd, the senior Democrat on the committee.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) says he hopes to have work completed on the bill by the April 11 deadline requested by President Bush.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young (R-Fla.) is also working to meet the April 11 deadline. Young says he intends to have a markup session to finalize the supplement plan "early next week" with a vote by the full House by the end of the week.

"I will resist the addition of extraneous provisions that are unrelated to the war effort," Young said. "This bill is too important for our troops for it to get bogged down by nonappropriations issues."