Gates: Lack of Supplemental Funds Would Hurt Afghan Mission
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2007 A lack of supplemental war funding from Congress would affect U.S. training efforts for Afghan soldiers and police, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told federal legislators at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday.
The supplemental contains about $2.7 billion allocated for training and equipping Afghan security forces, Gates, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, told House Armed Services Committee members.
Consequently, if funding isn’t received, “we wouldn’t be able to do that” kind of training in Afghanistan, Gates explained to the committee.
Congress has passed a $460 billion Defense Appropriations Act for 2008, but it doesn’t contain enough money to fund ongoing overseas operations.
The House passed a $50 billion bill in November with funds to continue operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it included legislation that directs the president to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by December 2008. The measure failed in the Senate. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that includes a troop-withdrawal timetable.
Gates noted during the committee hearing that “the money runs out for the Army in about mid-February and for the Marines in about mid-March.”
The department officially has notified Congress that it will begin a furlough process that possibly could affect up to 100,000 civilian employees as part of efforts to save money for overseas war operations in case the supplemental legislation’s passage is further delayed in Congress. The Defense Department also has told Congress that the Army and the Marines would have to divert on-hand funding previously earmarked for installation needs to pay for overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a letter to Congress dated Dec. 7, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England provided legislators the required 45-day notice before starting furloughs.
“The furlough will negatively affect our ability to execute base operations and training activities,” England wrote. “More importantly, it will affect the critical support our civilian employees provide to our warfighters -- support which is key to our current operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”
With no supplemental funding forthcoming, Army officials anticipate they would begin to furlough affected civilians sometime in February, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who accompanied Gates at the hearing, said.
In addition, “you stop doing your training to deploy, you stop rotating to other parts of the world,” Mullen continued in explanation of how the lack of funding would affect the Army.
The Army’s annual operational budget is about $27 billion, Mullen said. Today, he said, the Army is spending about $6.5 billion monthly “to run the Army” and “to support the efforts with respect to this war.”
Also, the Marine Corps’ recruiting mission would come to a halt without the needed money contained within the stalled supplemental appropriation, Mullen said.
The current situation “has a very debilitating effect on those two services,” Mullen emphasized, adding that’s why receiving the supplemental funding as quickly as possible “is really important for all the men and women who are serving, as well as their families.”