04/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Adm. Mullen: I Don't Know Where Obama Got War Cost Numbers (VIDEO)

Vowing to fight Barack Obama's budget in Congress, Republicans have resorted to a three-pronged attack: accusing the president of proposing unprecedented spending, irresponsible taxation, and using dishonest projections about how to pay for it all.

On the latter front, the GOP got a bit of an assist Sunday morning from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, the head of U.S. military forces said he didn't know where the Obama administration was getting its long-term projections for the money it will save by drawing down the war in Iraq. Asked by host Chris Wallace whether it was a budgetary "gimmick" that the government would save $183 billion in 2019 simply by drawing down the war in the next few years, Mullen said he wasn't sure. But he did say, on two occasions, that he never had seen that number before, the implicit message -- at least the one pushed by Wallace -- being that Obama had chosen rosy figures to meet its deficit reduction strategy.

WALLACE: The White House says that one way it's going to be able to cut the budget deficit is by saving hundreds of billions of dollars by dialing back in Iraq. Did you ever project that we would be spending $183 billion on into 2019?

MULLEN: I haven't looked out that far in terms of the specific projections. Certainly, we review routinely the costs as best we are able to project it in the budgets over the next several years, and we've done that. And, actually, you know, there will be considerable costs certainly in the near term even as we draw down. It's not just the costs of being there, but it will be the costs of coming home...

WALLACE: I'm going to get to that in a moment, but the question I'm asking is -- and you're saying as chairman of the joint chiefs, you did not have a projection -- excuse me -- of spending $183 billion in Iraq up through the next decade?


WALLACE: So when the Obama budget says that it's going to save hundreds of billions of dollars because it's not going to be spending $183 billion in 2019, that's a gimmick?

MULLEN: I'm not sure it's a gimmick. Looking out to 2019 so far, there are certainly uncertainties associated with that. I have a very clear understanding in the near term of what we think it's going to cost us for these two wars and in the long term...

WALLACE: But you didn't have that number, is what I'm saying.

MULLEN: No, I didn't have that number.

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