Murtha Blasts Pentagon For Trying To Pressure Congress Regarding Supplemental

Murtha Blasts Pentagon For Trying To Pressure Congress Regarding Supplemental
April 18th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Murtha Blasts Pentagon For Trying To Pressure Congress Regarding Supplemental

Murtha Blasts Pentagon For Trying To Pressure Congress Regarding Supplemental
Defense Daily
April 18, 2007
By Jen DiMascio
A day before the President and leading lawmakers were scheduled to discuss the fiscal year 2007 emergency supplemental spending bill, the chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee (HAC-D) said the Pentagon is trying to pressure Congress.
The House and the Senate have each passed versions of the measure to fund military operations in Iraq and elsewhere, but both contain provisions that would sent time lines for withdrawing troops from Iraq. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill with such timetable.
Each side is accusing the other of causing a delay to the final bill's passage that could begin to impact the Army, but disagreement remains about when the clock begins to tick and the extent to which the service will suffer.
At issue during yesterday's hearing was an Army announcement about the impact of a delay to the supplemental. The statement also outlined the Pentagon's intent to shift funding that would prevent the Army from running out of funds since the supplemental was not passed.
According to the April 16 memo from the Army secretary to members of Congress, the Pentagon plans to ask Congress for the approval to reprogram $1.6 billion from Navy and Air Force personnel accounts to pay for Army operating expenses and outles the potential consequences of a failure to pass the supplemental.
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) asked why the statement came out before the reprogramming action was approved. Reprogramming notices are typically approved by Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas, forwarded to the congressional defense committees and quietly approved, denied or amended. If they are approved, they are publicly posted on a Pentagon web site.
"This is not a secret," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody said of the statement.
According to Cody, the Army went through similar machinations last year before the supplemental spending measure for FY'06 was approved. He added that the release was not circulated to pressure Congress.
Cody told reporters after the hearing that the Army has less than $12.7 billion left for the war. The service is spending about $6.1 billion to $6.2 billion per month on the fight, he said.
During the hearing, HAC-D Chairman Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) said the public nature of the Pentagon's unapproved reprogramming request "gets under my nerves" and argued the statement was sent to pressure Congress.
"It's just irritating," Murtha said, adding that the subcommittee has responded to the needs of the military in the past. He added that the Army is not going to be in "dire straits" until June.
His statements typified the ongoing exchange between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of when the supplemental needs to pass.
The Army has outlined a chain of events beginning April 15 that would require the service to shift funding and begin cutbacks in order to prevent it from violating the anti- deficiency act.
Republicans have used that time line to urge Congress to send the president a "clean bill" that does not include a schedule for redeploying troops stationed in Iraq.
On March 28 and April 2, the Congressional Research Service issued a memo and a report saying the Army could sustain operations until June or the start of July by temporarily shifting procurement funding and using money in its baseline budget not needed until the end of the year.
On April 2, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cited the CRS report as evidence that the nonpartisan congressional think tank disagreed with the Army.
"This study confirms that the President is once again attempting to mislead the public and create an artificial atmosphere of anxiety. He is using scare tactics to defeat bipartisan legislation that would change course in Iraq," Reid said in a statement. "After waiting months for this administration to send us its funding requests, both houses of Congress worked quickly to pass the emergency supplemental bill for our troops. Congress has acted in good faith and will send the President a conference report for his signature well ahead of the July 2007 date CRS identified."
But the truth may lie somewhere in between the rhetoric of the administration and of congressional Democrats.
CRS's April 2 report walked a fine line, noting that the July date was not fixed and that the Army might cut costs ahead of time.
"The Army may very well decide that it must slow down its operations before money would run out by, for example, limiting facility maintenance and repairs, slowing equipment overhauls, limiting travel and meetings, and perhaps, slowing down training," said the CRS report.
But according to Sen. Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat from Nebraska who does not actively support including dates for Iraq troop withdraws, that is not the essential question.
"They can always move accounts around to cover their costs, the question is whether you want to force that to happen if you can get something done in a more timely manner," Nelson said yesterday.
Even if the Army won't run out of money as quickly as people might think, "We shouldn't be holding back getting it done until the last minute unless we can avoid doing that," Nelson said.
Reid told reporters yesterday the Senate hopes to forward a bill to the President next week. The Senate has appointed conferees; the House expects to appoint them today, according to both committees.

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