Army Budget Billions Short
The Army Chief of Staff has withheld his budget plan in protest over a budget that’s 41 percent short of operational requirements.
The Army’s top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.
The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials. “This is unusual, but hell, we’re in unusual times,” said a senior Pentagon official involved in the budget discussions.
Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The protest followed a series of cuts in the service’s funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months.
According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army’s budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker’s request a 41% increase over current levels. “It’s incredibly huge,” said the Army official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity when commenting on internal deliberations. “These are just incredible numbers.”
Most funding for the fighting in Iraq has come from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems. About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among military branches and government agencies.
But in recent budget negotiations, Army officials argued that the service’s expanding global role in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism — outlined in strategic plans issued this year — as well as fast-growing personnel and equipment costs tied to the Iraq war, have put intense pressure on its normal budget. “It’s kind of like the old rancher saying: ‘I’m going to size the herd to the amount of hay that I have,’ ” said Lt. Gen. Jerry L. Sinn, the Army’s top budget official. “[Schoomaker] can’t size the herd to the size of the amount of hay that he has because he’s got to maintain the herd to meet the current operating environment.”
While I’ve got considerable expertise in defense policy issues, calculating budget requirements is beyond my knowledge. Still, the fact that we’re continuing to find this war, now halfway into its third year, with “emergency” spending is simply irresponsible. And it’s obvious to even the casual observer that the Army is bearing the brunt of the mission.
UPDATE: More bad news for the Army from the AP:
In a new sign of mounting strain from the war in Iraq, the Army has extended the combat tours of about 4,000 soldiers who would otherwise be returning home, defense officials said Monday. The 1st Brigade of 1st Armored Division, which is operating in the vicinity of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, will be kept in place for several weeks beyond its scheduled departure, the officials said. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been formally announced by the Pentagon.
Unfortunate timing, to say the least.