By Ms. Carmen L. GleasonApril 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 19, 2007) - Due to budget shortfalls, the Army announced April 16 that spending restrictions will be enforced while waiting for Congress to pass an emergency supplemental for funding requirements associated with the war on terror.
Army budget officials said the delay is related more to the policy issues surrounding the supplemental than the amount of money being requested.
Funds for operations and maintenance have run low, requiring restrictions in other areas to ensure funds are available for the Army to execute its mission of defending the nation and prosecuting the war on terror while continuing to support military families, officials said.
Although the restrictions are unusual, they are not unprecedented, Mr. William Campbell, deputy director for the Army budget, said. He said the Army plans to slow down spending to stretch out available funds in the interim.
"I am confident that (the supplemental) will get passed," Mr. Campbell said. "In talking with staffers and congressmen, they are eager to get the money to the Army that it needs."
Mr. Campbell said the guidance is in a phased plan that will begin with simple restrictions over the next six weeks before becoming more stringent.
Beginning in mid-April, the Army will slow the purchase of non-critical repair parts and supplies, he said. Non-essential travel and supply transactions using a government purchase card and shipment of equipment will also be restricted unless needed immediately for war efforts.
In the interim, Army officials have worked with the Defense Department comptroller to submit a proposal to Congress to borrow $1.6 billion from the Navy and Air Force that would ease the Army's shortfall through June.
If budget issues aren't soon resolved, Mr. Campbell said that another reprogramming would be submitted in three or four weeks to carry the Army through the end of July.
This is the second year in a row that the Army has had to restrict spending while waiting for additional money from Congress. However, DoD has taken steps toward the stabilizing of funding for the next fiscal year.
Current policies have military branches getting a "down payment" of funds at the beginning of each fiscal year and receiving the remainder in April, May or June, said Mr. Campbell.
"DoD has submitted, for (fiscal 2008), a base program budget and (war on terror) allowance for the entire year as part of the budget," Mr. Campbell said. This would allow the Army to receive all needed money at the beginning of the fiscal year, he said.
Mr. Campbell said that commanders have been given a lot of latitude and flexibility to make exceptions in restrictions for the war on terror, family programs and national intelligence programs.
In the worst case scenario, contracts may be deferred and civilian hiring will be restricted, but not frozen, he said.
"At this point there is no reason to be concerned about employment," he said. "Last year we did release some temporary employees, but this year we're going to monitor it more carefully."
Mr. Campbell said Soldiers shouldn't be too concerned because it will not affect their pay or deployment readiness. "We should be able to manage money so that it's transparent to Soldiers and their Families in the field," he said.
"This is really mostly a budget drill," he said. "But it's gotten a lot of media coverage because of the policy issues surrounding it."
(Ms. Carmen L. Gleason writes for the American Forces Press Service.)