One of the points in dispute about the Iraq war supplemental bill about to get vetoed by the President is whether the delay has affected military operations. Harry Reid said that the current funding will cover operations until mid-July, while the White House insists that it has already begun degrading operations and readiness. A Congressional Research Service analysis supports the Democrats — but only by saying that robbing Peter to pay Paul will still have impact on a broad range of activities (emphases mine):
If the Army temporarily tapped all this transfer authority, it could have a total of $60.1 billion available rather than $52.6 billion. Based on projections of monthly obligations rates, the Army could finance the O&M costs of both its baseline and war program for almost two additional months or through most of July 2007, if it tapped all of this transfer authority (see Table 2). It would be $1.4 billion short of meeting total July obligations. If DOD used only some of its transfer authority, the Army could last through the end of June 2007.
The Army has suggested that these actions would disrupt its programs including facilities repair, depot maintenance, and training. In order to ensure that funding is available for the later months of the year, the Army may very well decide that it must slow down its non-war-related operations before money would run out by, for example, limiting facility maintenance and repairs, delaying equipment overhauls, restricting travel and meetings, and, perhaps, slowing down training. Although it is true that a delay in passage of the FY2007 supplemental could require additional management actions, Congress has given DOD flexibility by providing transfer authority so that funds can be moved to meet more urgent requirements. In this case, because the transfers would presumably be temporary, the disruptions might also be less onerous.
In other words, not passing a serious supplemental and getting the money to the Army by May 1 will cause some disruptions — depending on where the Army wants to have them. This differs from Harry Reid’s assertion that there is no haste in approving the supplemental.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee put out its own analysis today, relying on military officials to state clearly the impact the delay in funding has had:
“At the current moment, because of this lack of funding, MNSTC-I [Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq] is unable to continue at the pace [it had in developing] . . . Iraqi security forces. . . . [This lack of funding] is starting to have some impact today, and will only have more of an impact over time.” — Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, MNF-Iraq
The President requested $1.83 billion for procurement and outfitting of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP), which the Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded. Senator Biden then took to the floor to provide an additional $1.5 billion to the Procurement chapter of the supplemental bill for the procurement of MRAPs, because, citing military commanders, “MRAP could reduce the casualties in vehicles due to IED [Improvised Explosive Device] attack by as much as 80 percent.” The Amendment was approved by a vote of 98-0.
Now, the failure to provide a war supplemental in a timely manner means that neither funds in the President’s request, nor the plus-up provided by amendment, is currently available for a vehicle pointed out to be “the best available vehicle for force protection.”
The Army has already responded to the notion of reprogramming funding for the war effort, which the SRPC notes:
First and foremost, reprogramming requests are generally inefficient and certainly much less optimal than actually receiving the funds up-front. In a letter signed by the Chief of Staff of each of the Services, the Generals noted that “reprogramming is a short-term, cost-inefficient solution that wastes our limited resources.”
Next, reprogramming is itself not without cost. Since reprogramming is essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul, when the Department takes funds to support one program over another, that action must come at the expense of the program from which the funds are taken. As General Schoomaker notes, “These [reprogramming] actions can disrupt and desynchronize our next-todeploy units as they prepare for war, possibly compromising future readiness and strategic depth.
It should be fairly obvious to anyone who has worked in a large organization — and especially in government and the DoD — that money can’t just be shifted around overnight. It takes a great deal of accounting and oversight to manage the funds, and moving it around requires freezing spening until the money gets transferred to where it is needed. It will cost a fortune to accomplish this, degrading our readiness and halting projects all across the board.
It’s a Mickey Mouse solution to a problem that Congress created, and all the Democrats can do is to tell the Army to blow millions of dollars while it plays politics with the war.
UPDATE: Bush has made his speech, and it wasn’t bad. I wish he had spent more time talking about the pork projects — pick a few to show the ridiculous nature of the way they sold this bill to the one-vote majorities in both chambers. He also kept giving that annoying half-smile of his, a tic that undercuts his credibility. However, other than that, he sounded firm and clear on the reasons for rejecting the timetables, including the way the bill hamstrings commanders in the field.