By Emelie Rutherford
As promised, the Pentagon asked lawmakers for permission on Tuesday to internally reprogram $9.66 billion to cover Army personnel and operational costs as it waits for Congress to pass a delayed war-supplemental funding bill.
"This emergency action was necessary to extend Army and defense-wide operations in the absence of requested supplemental appropriations funds," the Pentagon said in a statement yesterday.
The May 27 reprogramming request seeks congressional approval to transfer $5.7 billion from Navy and Air Force personnel appropriations to Army and Army National Guard accounts, according to a summary.
It also requests approval to reprogram $3.46 billion from Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force operation and maintenance (O&M) appropriations to Army, Army National Guard, and defense-wide O&M accounts, and $500 million from the Army's defense working capital fund to Army O&M, the Pentagon summary shows.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Senate appropriators last week if a fiscal year 2008 war funding bill was not passed by Memorial Day, the Defense Department (DoD) would send the reprogramming requests to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 27. Guidance on employee furlough planning will be issued within the DoD on June 9, Gates said May 20 in a written statement to the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee (SAC-D).
The defense secretary testified before the committee that internally reprogramming the funds "would get us only to late July."
"Should Congress fail to pass the GWOT supplemental appropriations legislation by mid-July, the department will have exhausted all military personnel and operations funding and will, at minimum, be unable to make payroll for both military and civilian personnel throughout the department," the Pentagon's statement says.
"Service members and selected essential civilian employees, including those engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, would continue to serve, but without pay. Non-essential civilian employees would be furloughed pursuant to applicable personnel procedures."
Without the FY '08 war supplemental funds or any reprogramming action, the Army military personnel account would run out of funds to pay soldiers by June 15, the Pentagon maintains.
"Accordingly, the department is requesting that the appropriate Congressional committees act on the reprogramming action by no later than June 9," the DoD statement says.
Some on Capitol Hill have decried such warnings as scare tactics from the Pentagon.
Congress has not yet approved the Bush administration's final request for supplemental war funds for FY '08, which ends Sept. 30. The White House is seeking $108.1 billion in remaining FY '08 war supplemental funds, along with $70 billion in FY '09 "bridge" funding for the wars.
The Senate passed a war-supplemental bill last on May 22 that includes $165.4 billion in FY '08 and FY '09 war funding along with additional domestic spending measures that have spurred a veto threat from the White House.
The House shot down the war-funding section of a supplemental bill it voted on May 15, when Republicans upset with not having more of a say in crafting the legislation cast protest votes of "present;" the House, however, on May 15 did pass war-policy and domestic spending portions of the bill that the White House objects to.
The House is expected to take up the war-supplemental spending again some time after this week's Memorial Day recess.