War accounts under attack as DOD scrambles for funds

Severe account shortages across the Defense Department are now having an impact on operations in the global war on terror. Due to a lack of emergency supplemental funding, the Army and other services are shifting funds from critical missions to bolster operations and maintenance accounts departmentwide.

Funding new initiatives for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device threat will be delayed, a payment to Pakistan for its coalition support cannot be made, and ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi Security Forces will be curtailed due to a lack of sufficient funding by late June, according to a DOD official who spoke on background.

DOD blames the funding shortages on Congress’ failure to pass the Emergency Supplemental bill. The bill is awaiting a meeting of a joint conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.

As reported at FCW.com yesterday, a recent Army memo mandated severe spending restrictions to maintain Army account solvency while the supplemental bill lingers. Those measures include canceling all non-essential travel, halting orders of supplies, freezing civilian hiring and contract work, and eventually postponing recruitment, reenlistment and promotions.

That memo stressed that critical missions involving the life, health, and safety of deployed American soldiers are the Army’s top priority and should not be affected. But that may not be possible.

“Accounts critical to financing the Global War on Terror are now at risk,” says Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a DOD spokesman. “We’re definitely coming closer to a much greater impact as time goes on.”

Stopgap measures are now being employed to keep DOD functioning during the short term. Officials reprogrammed $1.4 billion into the operations and maintenance account for the Army, an amount that will last only until the end of June. The Marine Corps and Special Forces have been given $250 million and $36 million, respectively.

“We continue to drive on, but curtailing things that we’re doing is causing significant problems in our operations and maintenance and training accounts,” Maka said. “We are having to borrow from future allocations to pay for current operations, which you don’t really want to do, because if that runs dry, then how are you going to operate?” he said.

The Congress will revisit the emergency supplemental on Tuesday after members return from their Memorial Day recess. The joint conference committee will try to reconcile the two versions of the bill, and a vote could come as early as Friday, a Senate Appropriations Committee spokesperson said.

The Senate version of the bill appropriates a total of $107 billion, which included $70.9 billion for the Global War on Terror. The House version totals $92.2 billion, of which $67.6 billion is earmarked for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

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