Pen­tagon Says Fund­ing De­lay Would Af­fect Ro­ta­tions, Train­ing, Re­pairs

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News - By Ann Scott Tyson

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 con- firmed 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 con- tract 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-war­related 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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