Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Army Directs Cutbacks in Anticipation of Budget Shortfall

Army Directs Cutbacks
in Anticipation of
Budget Shortfall
28, 2007

Army installation commanders worldwide have been directed to plan for spending scale-backs due to an anticipated budget crunch sparked by governmental wrangling over funding for the war on terrorism, according to an Army news release issued today.

In a memorandum dated Nov. 26, Gen. Richard A. Cody, vice chief of staff of the Army, directed all Army commanders and agency directors to begin planning to curtail operations and related expenses that do not directly support warfighters engaged in the global war on terrorism, the release stated.

Cody's instructions tell Army commanders and civilian leaders to review all operations and to forward recommendations to cut costs back to him by Dec. 4.

"We are only in the prudent planning phase," Cody said in a statement issued today. The Defense Department has instructed all military services to review operational costs at installations as well as to prepare for possible furloughs of government civilian employees.

"It is an imperative of the senior Army leadership that our Army, especially while at war, understands the budget process, the decisions being made and any potential impacts on the total Army family."

Congress has approved supplemental funding for war operations, but such legislation comes attached with timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. President Bush has vowed to veto any such legislation that crosses his desk.

Having received no war-supplemental money since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, the Army has had to use its budgeted operations and maintenance dollars normally employed to organize, train, equip and field forces, as well as to sustain soldiers and their families, to fund war-related operations and activities, according to the Army news release.

During a visit to Killeen, Texas, Nov. 26, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said federal legislators' failure to quickly pass an emergency funding supplemental bill would derail military gains made against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army and Marine Corps members constitute the biggest ground presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Without these funds, Army operations and maintenance funds will be exhausted by mid-February, and similar Marine Corps funds about a month later," Gates told listeners gathered at the municipality's Chamber of Commerce.

"We cannot wait until mid-February to figure out how to deal with consequences of these accounts running dry," Gates said.

Cody has instructed Army installation chiefs and other leaders to be prepared to minimize operational and maintenance-funded activities that are "not required to protect the life, health and safety of occupants of Army installations, or required to maintain assets vital to the national defense."

The Army expects to exhaust all operational and maintenance funds by Feb. 23, even after considering a request from DoD to transfer more than $4 billion from Navy and Air Force personnel accounts and the Army's working capital fund, according to today's Army release.

Per current labor agreements and to provide some predictability to the civilian work force, supervisors would have to start notifying Army civilians of any impending February furloughs by mid-December, according to the Army news release.

During a Nov. 20 Pentagon news conference, DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters that Gates lamented that Congress hadn't quickly passed the emergency supplemental bill containing nearly $200 billion to fund war operations. In consequence, Morrell said, Gates directed the Army and Marine Corps to begin planning to reduce operations at all Army bases by mid-February and all Marine installations by mid-March.

"At that point, the bases will be all but shut down, able to provide only the most basic safety and security measures for those who reside there," Morrell said.

In addition, the Defense Department will begin notifying about 200,000 civilian employees and contractors "we can no longer afford their services and that, absent additional funding, they will be furloughed or temporarily laid off within a matter of weeks," Morrell told reporters.

The Army's planning actions "are absolutely necessary given the uncertain global war on terror funding," Cody stated in today's Army news release. "We will do everything we can to minimize the turbulence for our soldiers, civilians and their families."

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