Pentagon Says Funding Delay Would Affect Rotations, Training, Repairs

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 1, 2007

A delay in billions of dollars of supplemental war funding for the Pentagon would cause the Army to curtail training and equipment repair necessary to prepare units in the United States for deployment, which could lead forces now in Iraq and Afghanistan to have their tours lengthened, according to the nation's top general and other senior military officials.

"Potentially, you would have troops who are currently serving overseas who would have to be extended" if the funds are delayed past May 15, because other service members would not be ready to replace them, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week during a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

The $122 billion emergency funding bill passed by the Senate contains more than $47 billion for the Army. That includes $20.5 billion to replenish an operations and maintenance account that will be exhausted by the end of May, according to a senior Army official.

"We cannot repeat last year's near-disastrous 'cash flow' experience and meet the increased operational demands now facing us," Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, testified at the House earlier this month.

A Congressional Research Service report released Friday confirmed that the Army's operations funds will run out by the end of May but said the Pentagon has authority to transfer, with congressional approval, an additional $7.5 billion to cover operations through about three weeks into July.

The operations funds are critical for running Army installations and Army depots that repair and upgrade equipment, as well as for training, spare parts and war zone expenses such as fuel.

If the new funds did not arrive in time, the Army would prioritize spending in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and cut back in other areas, the officials said. For example, the first steps would include a civilian hiring freeze, laying off contract workers, limiting travel, and using sea shipment instead of air transport, as well as cutting back on procurement -- all measures that were imposed during a delay last year, according to Army officials.

Next, the Army would request authority to shift money from its personnel accounts to pay for operations. Still, such adjustments would work only for so long.

"If we used the levers to the extent we can, and reprogrammed the most we could from [military personnel accounts], we would still exhaust our funds at the end of May or early June," said the senior Army official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Army leaders have not made final decisions on how to handle a shortfall.

A delay beyond mid-April would force the Army to cut back on training for National Guard and reserve units, slowing their ability to be certified as ready to deploy, Pace said.

The construction and upgrading of barracks, fitness centers and other facilities would also be affected, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Beyond mid-May, Army repair depots would have to slow work on the backlog of thousands of broken tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Humvees, and other vehicles and weapons needed for training, Pace said. The purchase of spare parts and repair parts would also suffer, he said. About 40 percent of the Army's and Marine Corps' equipment are either in the war zone or at depots awaiting repair.

In addition, active-duty Army brigades would have to delay or curtail their training rotations, and the formation of the new brigades would also take longer, primarily because of equipment shortages, Pentagon officials said.

"The Army may very well decide that it must slow down its non-war-related operations before money would run out by, for example, limiting facility maintenance and repairs, delaying equipment overhauls, restricting travel and meetings, and perhaps, slowing down training," the CRS report said.

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