Army Guard Expects Recruiting Funds To Run Out In April

Army Guard Expects Recruiting Funds To Run Out In April
February 29th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army Guard Expects Recruiting Funds To Run Out In April

Army Guard Expects Recruiting Funds To Run Out In April
National Journal's CongressDailyAM
February 29, 2008
The chief of the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau warned lawmakers Thursday that the Army Guard needs roughly $700 million by April 15 to cover recruiting and retention costs, and award bonuses or the force will have to halt efforts to attract and retain troops.
Faced with shortfalls in its base budget for this year, the Army Guard is relying heavily on supplemental appropriations to pay for recruiting and retention needs.
But with just $70 billion approved in supplemental funding so far for FY08, those Guard accounts will soon run dry unless Congress either approves the remaining $102.5 billion requested by the Bush administration or the Army shifts money from other accounts, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum told the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee at a hearing.
"The National Guard recruiting machine will stop" if it does not receive the funding, Blum said.
He said he has assurances from Army Secretary Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff George Casey that he will receive the funding. Blum expressed impatience that the Guard must rely on unpredictable supplemental dollars, which Congress has approved at different times during the year, to pay for operations he believes should be covered by annual appropriations.
"I would much prefer that that [money] is in the base budget," Blum told the panel.
Without another supplemental by April 15, Blum said continuing recruiting and retention efforts will "require some extremely painful reprogramming."
House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., who expressed surprise at the shortfall, said he does not expect a vote on the supplemental until after the two-week recess at the end of March -- a schedule that makes it extremely unlikely that the National Guard will have the operational funds in hand by mid-April.
For FY09, the Guard already has sent Congress a wish list indicating that the Army Guard has a so-called unfunded requirement of $425.2 million for recruiting and retention and $300 million for bonuses and incentives. The extra money is aimed at strengthening recruiting efforts.
After rapidly losing personnel from FY03 to FY05, Guard officials doubled the number of recruiters and took steps to attract and retain soldiers, including offers of larger bonuses to recruits and soldiers signing up for new terms.
Their efforts helped the Army Guard enlarge from 333,000 in FY05 to more than 350,000 today. More than 13,000 soldiers were added to Army Guard rolls in FY06 alone -- the most growth since the end of the draft during the Vietnam War era.
During the hearing, Blum shared concerns that he only has enough funding to fill 67 percent of the required full-time Army Guard positions. Those posts, Blum said, have become critically important for processing troops for deployment and running other day-to-day operations of his heavily used force.
Blum likened preparing for and responding to domestic and overseas commitments with an inadequate full-time force to an understaffed fire department. "We're supposed to do that with two guys in a firehouse and it isn't going to work that way," he said.
--Megan Scully

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