War Funding Woes
The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps chiefs expressed concern yesterday about funding war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan once the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, saying some type of temporary financing will be necessary as they await the passage of a supplemental appropriation.
“I do not have an answer for exactly how we would do that,” Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, and Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief, offering assenting views.
The chiefs’ testimony came as senators, for the second time in a week, criticized the Bush administration for failing to include as much as $50 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in its proposed $401.7 billion defense budget for fiscal 2005.
Pentagon Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim said last week that those costs would be covered in a fiscal 2005 supplemental measure that will not be proposed until January at the earliest, which means the military services will most likely have to borrow from fourth-quarter accounts to pay for first-quarter military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the supplemental is passed.
A senior Army officer involved in budgeting, in an interview last week, expressed concern about the disruption this would cause. The officer said the delay would result in added borrowing costs.
But a senior administration official who works with the services on budgeting issues played down this concern after yesterday’s hearing, noting that the Pentagon has considerable experience bridging its cash flows while waiting for supplemental funding.
I must admit, I’m not getting this one. We’re at war. We know we’re at war. This isn’t a surprise. Surely, it would be prudent to at least start off the fiscal year with the war included in the budget?