msnbc link Intense combat in Iraq is chewing up military hardware and consuming money at an unexpectedly rapid rate -- depleting military coffers, straining defense contractors and putting pressure on Bush administration officials to seek a major boost in war funding long before they had hoped. Since Congress approved an $87 billion defense request last year, the administration has steadfastly maintained that military forces in Iraq will be sufficiently funded until early next year. President Bush's budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 included no money for Iraqi operations, and his budget director, Joshua B. Bolten, said no request would come until January at the earliest. But military officials, defense contractors and members of Congress say that worsening U.S. military fortunes in Iraq have dramatically changed the equation and that more money will be needed soon. This comes as lawmakers, returning from their spring break, voice unease about the mounting violence in Iraq and what they say is the lack of a clearly enunciated strategy for victory. The military already has identified unmet funding needs, including initiatives aimed at providing equipment and weapons for troops in Iraq. The Army has publicly identified nearly $6 billion in funding requests that did not make Bush's $402 billion defense budget for 2005, including $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat. The Marine Corps' unfunded budget requests include $40 million for body armor, lightweight helmets and other equipment for "Marines engaged in the global war on terrorism," Marine Corps documents state. The Marines are also seeking 1,800 squad automatic weapons and 5,400 M4 carbine rifles. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future. Weldon described the administration's current defense budget request as "outrageous" and "immoral" and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months. "There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not," he said. "The support of our troops has to be the number one priority of this country. . . . Somebody's got to get serious about this." Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who returned from Iraq on March 23, said senior Army officers and contractors told him "serious problems" will surface this summer if Congress does not approve more spending by June. Without the additional funding, food concession contracts will have to be renegotiated and operations and training bases in the United States will have to be cannibalized to finance operations in Iraq. "If one American soldier in Iraq loses his life because Congress and the administration were afraid of the political consequences of another supplemental appropriations bill, shame on everyone who should be a part of that process," Edwards said. Some lawmakers said that if the administration stands firm against supplemental military spending this year, Congress may act on its own this summer to increase spending. But without Bush's lead, lawmakers say, it will be difficult. Pressed on the funding issue yesterday at a Senate hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz conceded that higher-than-expected troop levels are draining some military accounts, but he said other accounts remain in surplus and can be tapped.