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Law lets men, mules continue forward without funds

“Look! Dodge City is just up ahead,” a cavalryman told his commander.

Relieved, the commander said he needed to buy supplies there. His troop had run out.

“But we’ve spent all the money we have," the soldier said. "There’s no more."

“Don’t worry," the commander assured him. "We can spend more money for the men and the mules.”

Dodge City is just up ahead for a select few agencies’ operations if the government closes down for a long time for lack of an appropriation bill.

The Feed and Forage Act of 1861 gives agencies the authority to buy “clothing, subsistence, forage, fuel, quarters, transportation, or medical and hospital supplies” if current funding has run out.

“It was designed if you were running a Calvary troop in the Western Territories in the 1870s and you ran out of food and ran out of ammunition,” said John Conney, former general counsel for the Office of Management and Budget during the government shutdowns in 1995.

“If the troop came into Dodge City, the head of the troop could procure enough food to keep the men and the mules going forward,” he said.

However, the law only permits the special allowance for the Defense and Homeland Security departments with respect to the Coast Guard when it’s not operating as a service in the U.S. Navy.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld invoked the Feed and Forage Act shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Invoking the Feed and Forage Act authorities will ensure the Department of Defense can fully support units of the U.S. armed forces involved in military operations and activities resulting from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the aircraft crash in Pennsylvania,” according to a press release from DOD on Sept. 21, 2001.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:11 PM


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