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Congressional Report Confirms Furlough Predictions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2007 – A Congressional Research Service report confirms the Defense Department estimate for when the Army and Marine Corps will run out money and be forced to furlough civilians and shutter bases.

The report, released Dec. 6, says the Army will run out of operations and maintenance money by mid-February, and the Marine Corps will run out of funds a month later. Amy Belasco, Stephen Daggett and Pat Towell wrote the report, titled “How Long Can the Defense Department Finance FY2008 Operations in Advance of Supplemental Appropriations?”

The service, a part of the Library of Congress, affirmed the DoD projections. The report says that the Army and Marine Corps may be able to push that date back a bit by transferring funds and slowing down spending. “These measures would, however, reduce remaining financial flexibility and may disrupt day-to-day operations,” the report says. And even these steps will only delay the inevitable for a couple of weeks.

The president requested $189.3 billion for war on terror supplemental funds. Congress approved about $17 billion for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, but the rest of the funds are tied up in a disagreement between Congress and the president over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

Without the supplemental funds, the Army will be forced to curtail training and shutter many bases. The service also will be forced to furlough about 100,000 civilian employees and lay-off about 100,000 contractors. Furlough notification letters will go out to unions and employees beginning next week, DoD officials said.

“The Defense Department may be able to sustain operations longer by invoking the Feed and Forage Act or by using novel, unprecedented measures, such as assigning the Navy and Air Force to pay costs of Army operations overseas,” the report says.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today that the department already is using reprogramming authority as much as it can. “It would require Congress to authorize more reprogramming authority than they already have,” he said.

“But the real danger is, if you use up all the Navy and Air Force operations and maintenance budgets, what you do is start to chip away at what I would call the strategic capability of this nation in terms of being able to provide capability for other contingencies around the world,” he said. “With a fairly committed Army and Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be a dangerous thing to have the Navy and Air Force unable to operate and provide basic strategic reserve we have.”

Congress is scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 21. If it does not reach an agreement on funding, the legislation will not be considered until after Congress reconvenes, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15.

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