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Gates Calls on Congress to Pass Fiscal 2008 Emergency Request

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called on Congress today during a news conference announcing the fiscal 2009 defense budget request to finish work on the 2008 emergency budget supplemental bill. (Video)

President Bush requested $189.4 billion for the war on terror for fiscal 2008. In December, Congress approved $86.8 billion of that request and deferred work on the remaining $102.5 billion.

“As I’ve said before, delay degrades our ability to operate and sustain our force at home and in theater and makes it difficult to manage this department in a way that is fiscally sound,” Gates said. “I urge approval of this budget request as quickly as possible.”

Defense Department Comptroller Tina W. Jonas said the Army will run out of money to pay troops in June and will be unable to fund operations in July.

“Congress provided very little of the additional pay we requested, so the Army’s military pay account will run out of funds in June,” she said at the news conference. She said the June deadline already includes all budget-stretching procedures the department can perform.

Army operations are in a little better shape, but funding for them will last only through July, said Navy Vice Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, the Joint Staff’s resources director.

Jonas also is concerned about the equipment and force protection pieces of the 2008 emergency supplemental request. DoD asked for $43.6 billion to reset the force. “The Congress provided less than a third of the funding that we need,” she said. “This includes $2.2 billion for about 300,000 sets of body armor.”

The emergency request also includes $1 billion for coalition support funding. This money goes to coalition countries to sustain their support for the global war on terrorism. “We will run out of those funds in March, so this is very important to us,” Jonas said.

The request also funds equipment to outfit two new Army brigade combat teams.

“That doesn’t mean that the people we are deploying into the theater over the next several months won’t be fully equipped and ready,” Stanley said. “They will be. What it means is there will be holes in the gear that is left behind and (that) we use to certify and train those next-to-deploy forces.” The department will take risk in its U.S.-based forces, but will keep deploying forces at the right readiness level, he added.

Also awaiting congressional approval is $2.9 billion to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

The administration also has asked Congress for a $70 billion emergency request for fiscal 2009, which starts Oct. 1, 2008. Gates said this “bridge fund” will cover operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the calendar year. Defense officials said the request is a placeholder for a more detailed request they will submit in the spring.

Officials need more information from U.S. Central Command before they can be more specific about the funding, Jonas explained.

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates
Tina W. Jonas
Vice Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, USN

Related Sites:
Transcript: FY09 Defense Budget Briefing

Related Articles:
Bush Delivers $515.4 Billion Defense Budget Request to Congress



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