Secretary of Defense Gates has written a letter to Congress expressing his concern over proposals to fund the Defense Department in three-months increments and to delay the second increment. Here is the text of the Gates letter:
I am writing to express my serious concern over proposals to incrementally fund the Fiscal Year 2007 Emergency Supplemental appropriations bill.
I understand that one of the proposals under active consideration would assume the same funding levels as the bill recently vetoed by the President but withhold amounts corresponding with three months worth of funding. This second increment of funds would not be available to the Department of Defense until the Congress passed subsequent legislation sometime in the July timeframe.
In my view, such a proposal would cause significant disruption to the effective and efficient operation of the Department of Defense and the health and welfare of the U.S. military. In submitting the FY07 supplemental request in early February, the Department planned on these funds becoming available by no later than mid-April. Accordingly, starting in mid-April, the Department began a series of actions to mitigate the impact of the delay in the supplemental on our deployed forces by slowing down spending in less critical accounts. In addition, funds budgeted for fourth quarter Army operations and personnel costs have been or are in the process of being moved forward and expended to partially make up the shortfall.
These actions have resulted in the Army having to manage civilian payroll obligations on a week-to-week basis, deferring repair of equipment, restricting the use of government purchase cards, curtailing travel, freezing certain categories of civilian hiring, cancelling non-critical orders and restraining supply purchases. In short, these steps, while necessary to account for the delay in the supplemental, have already caused disruptions within the Department.
Further, the lack of timely supplemental funds has limited the Department’s ability to properly contract for the reconstitution of equipment for both the active and reserve forces. This situation increases the readiness risk of our military with each passing day should the nation require the use of these forces prior to the equipment becoming available. In other cases, the funding delay negatively impacts our forces in the field by needlessly delaying the accelerated fielding of new force protection capabilities such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle and counter-IED technologies developed and acquired by the Join IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Finally, the ongoing delay resulted in the depletion of funds necessary to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces.
Against this backdrop, the prospect of segmenting and further delaying funding that is urgently needed can only result in additional disruption and uncertainty in Department operations. An organization the size and complexity of the Department of Defense needs a certain measure of funding stability and predictability. Without it, compensatory measures are required that cause, at best inefficiency and at worst a reduction in the Department’s ability to carry out its national security mission.
Finally, it is critically important that the Congress understand that most, if not all, of the funds that would be held back under the incremental funding proposal will go toward replenishing routine military service operational accounts and not war-related operations.
Thus, a second vote in July on the release of such funds would not be a substantive decision on the war, but rather, a pro forma decision that merely presents members with the simple choice of whether or not to shut down significant elements of the Department of Defense for the rest of the fiscal year.
I strongly urge the Congress to pass a bill with full funding that the President can sign as rapidly as possible.
It’s a disgrace that Congress has acted in a way that necessitates a letter like this. Will the Congressional response be more disgraceful still?
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