WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 23, 2007) - A delay in approving the Defense Department's fiscal 2007 supplemental budget request will seriously damage the Army's readiness, possibly resulting in delayed training for units headed to Iraq and reduced funding for building and equipment repairs, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here yesterday.

If the supplemental funding is not passed by April 15, the Army will be forced to consider curtailing and suspending home-station training for Reserve and National Guard units, and slowing the training of units slated to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. The Army also would have to consider cutting funding for the upgrade and renovation of barracks and other facilities, and stopping the repair of equipment necessary to support troop deployment training, he said.

"This kind of disruption to key programs will have a genuinely adverse affect on the readiness of the Army and quality of life for Soldiers and their families," Gates said.

The fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental request includes $93.4 billion to help fund U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the campaign against terrorism around the globe.

If the supplemental funding is delayed past May 15, the Army will face even more tough choices, Gates said. Leaders will have to consider reducing repair work at Army depots and delaying or curtailing the deployment of brigade combat teams to their training rotations, which will cause additional units in theater to have their tours extended because other units are not ready to take their place, he said.

Also, he said, the Army might have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, implement a civilian hiring freeze, stop the execution of new contracts and service orders, or hold or cancel the orders of repair parts to non-deployed units.

Gates noted that the Army faced similar budget problems in 2006. Any disruptions to deployments would most likely affect units that are part of the regular rotation, and not those already scheduled to be part of the five-brigade surge to Baghdad, he said.

With the supplemental measure, the fiscal 2008 war on terror request, and the fiscal 2008 defense budget request, the Army will receive a little more than $46 billion for new equipment and reset, a substantial increase in its budget, Gates noted. He pointed out that he also has approved an increase in end strength for the Army and changed the deployment and mobilization policy for the reserve components.

"It seems to me that with all these measures, as we proceed with them, the stress on the Army will be alleviated, even while we're carrying out the kinds of deployments that we have, but it's going to take a little time," he said. "What's important is for the Soldiers and Marines out there, the ground forces, to know that help is on the way."

The Army and the rest of the U.S. military have significant commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates acknowledged, but the U.S. is still ready to respond to any other potential conflicts. Another major conflict would delay the achievement of goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, but wouldn't prevent success, he said.

"Our ability to defend the United States, despite the heavy commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, remains very strong, and every adversary should be aware of that," he said.

(Sgt. Sara Wood writes for the American Forces Press Service.)