Gates Urges Congress to Pass 2007 Supplemental Budget
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called on Congress to quickly act on the fiscal 2007 supplemental request to fund ongoing operations in the war on terror.
Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee today.
President Bush is asking for $93.4 billion for the Defense Department, and that money is vital, Gates said.
“If these additional funds are delayed, the military will be forced to engage in costly and counterproductive reprogramming actions starting this spring, in April, to make up the shortfall,” Gates said. “Timely enactment of this supplemental request is critical to ensuring our troops in the field have the resources they need.”
Congress already has appropriated $70 billion for operations this fiscal year.
If approved, the supplement will pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, repairing and replacing equipment damaged or destroyed in combat and in new technologies to protect U.S. servicemembers. This last includes a new generation of body armor, better armored vehicles and countermeasures against improvised explosive devices. IEDs have caused around 70 percent of the U.S. casualties in Iraq, officials said.
The supplement also will provide funds for training and equipping the Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Gates said the request is a large increase for Afghan forces. “I would note that while our country is properly focused on the serious situation in Iraq, it is critical that the gains made in Afghanistan these past few years not be allowed to slip away,” he said.
Gates said Congress may have “sticker shock” over the DoD request. If the supplemental request is approved, the department would spend more than $700 billion this fiscal year. “Please consider that, at about 4 percent of America’s gross domestic product, the amount of money the United States is projected to spend on defense this year is actually a smaller percentage of GDP than when I left government 14 years ago,” Gates said.
The secretary said that four cents on the dollar is not too much to pay when the country is facing a myriad of other problems besides the war on terror. Gates said that Iran and North Korea have nuclear ambitions and are known proliferators. China and Russia are walking uncertain paths to the future and are “pursuing sophisticated military modernization programs.”
He also said there is a range of other potential flashpoints in the world. “In this strategic environment, the resources we devote to defense at this critical time should be at the level to adequately meet those challenges,” he said.