Pentagon looking for supplemental funds

By LUKE X. MARTIN, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI  |  July 22, 2010 at 5:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Wash., July 22 (UPI) -- If the U.S. Congress doesn't approve wartime supplemental funding for the U.S. Department of Defense before the August recess, American armed forces could run out of money to support a range of operations by September.

Members of the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee met Thursday to discuss the financial management of the U.S. military during a period of tight fiscal resources.

The undersecretaries of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force all stressed the importance of timely passage of the supplemental funding.

Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force, said that without the extra cash, the Air Force would run out of "funding to do the whole range of operational activities at the end of August, and then has military personnel accounts running out by the third week of September."

Prospects for the other military branches are similarly bleak.

Robert O. Work, undersecretary for the Navy, said they would have to consider furloughing civilian employees and would "begin to run out of money to pay active-duty members sometime in the mid-September to the late-September time frame."

For the Army, the budget crunch would make itself felt even sooner, with operations and maintenance money running out mid-August.

Money budgeted for operations and maintenance are used to prepare for and conduct combat operations, as well as to purchase fuel and spare parts for training operations, to pay civilian personnel, and to purchase supplies, equipment and service contracts for the repair of weapons and facilities.

"It is very, very important that before (Congress leaves) for recess we have the supplemental approved," said Joseph Westphal, the Army undersecretary. "The consequences are pretty significant."

Both the House and the Senate have scheduled their summer break from Aug. 9 to Sept. 12.

U.S. Rep. Howard P. McKeon, R-Calif., ranking member of the committee, in trying to determine how long after approval it would take the money to reach military accounts, said he fears some members of the House don't have the same sense of urgency.

McKeon said he hopes the issue will be taken up as soon as possible next week.

"I, for one, think that if it's not done (before the recess), we shouldn't leave town until it is done," he said.

"I know we're not going to leave the troops in harm's way without ammunition, without food, without the things that they need," the congressman said, "but I'm concerned about the training and some of the other ongoing activities for the troops that are going over there next."

Westphal said that, because of the tight time frame, deadlines for the required advanced notice of furloughs for civilians and service members have already passed or are dangerously close to passing.

Work said the military would be in an "emergency situation" if the supplemental funding was not passed quickly.

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