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Defense Department Cites Urgent Need for Supplemental Funds

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2008 – It is imperative for Congress to quickly approve $102.5 billion in fiscal 2008 emergency supplemental funding earmarked to finance the global war on terrorism, a senior Defense Department official said here today. (Video)

“We need that money as soon as possible so there is no disruption to our warfighting efforts and not a disruption to our soldiers’ lives, both in the field and their families at home,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters during a news conference.

“It is imperative that we get that money as soon as possible,” Morrell reiterated.

President Bush requested $189.4 billion for the war on terror for fiscal 2008, which ends Sept. 30. In December, Congress approved $86.8 billion of that request, leaving a balance of $102.5 billion.

At a Pentagon news conference yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said delay in receipt of the balance of the supplemental “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.”

The secretary urged Congress to approve the supplemental “as quickly as possible.”

The Army will run out of money to pay troops in June and will be unable to fund operations in July if the department doesn’t receive the emergency supplemental funds soon, Defense Department Comptroller Tina W. Jonas told reporters at yesterday’s news conference.

Gates will spend all day tomorrow on Capitol Hill in testimony before U.S. Senate and House committees to “press Congress to act on the outstanding balance in the global war on terror funds that we need for this year,” Morrell said.

In November, the Army said it would have to furlough civilian employees and close bases if emergency supplemental funding earmarked for installation operations and maintenance wasn’t approved by Congress. In December, Congress approved about half the funds requested, and layoffs and base shutdowns were averted.

But now, “we are soon going to be confronted with the same situation we found ourselves in at the end of last year,” Morrell pointed out, in which the Defense Department is “having to look down the barrel of the frightening prospect of running out of operations and maintenance money, from which we pay our forces and do lots of other things in the global war on terror.”

The president yesterday sent Congress his proposed defense budget of $515.4 billion for fiscal 2009, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2009.

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Robert M. Gates

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