Pentagon developing 'emergency plan' in absence of war funds

The Pentagon is “seriously planning” for the possibility that Congress will not pass emergency war funding before lawmakers head to the August recess, said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

The Pentagon is developing an “emergency plan” to deal with the lack of supplemental funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Morrell said at a press briefing Wednesday. Morrell did not disclose any details of the plan, because Defense Secretary Robert Gates has yet to consider the options under that plan.

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“Needless to say, all of this is extraordinarily disruptive to the department," Morrell said. “But we've had some practice at this over the last few years. We're sadly getting used to this fire drill.”

The fate of the war supplemental is in the hands of the Senate, which has yet to decide on a strategy to pass the bill. The House earlier this month made changes to a supplemental bill already approved by the Senate in May. Additions the House made to the war-spending bill are now complicating its passage in the Senate.

The Senate expects to consider the supplemental appropriations bill during “this work period,” Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said on Monday.

Morrell said that in order to ensure that war operations are not interrupted the military services will now have to “begin cash-flowing operating costs for war activities using their base budgets.”

Because the government already entered the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010, “this option won't last very long,” Morrell said. 

“So, absent more drastic action, we project that certain Army and Marine Corps accounts will run dry in August,” he added. “We urgently need Congress to pass the supplemental before members leave town for the next break in August.”

While Congress was late in passing supplementals in the past, this year’s situation is much more difficult because most Pentagon accounts are on their “last legs” toward the end of the fiscal year.

“We are left with far fewer options in terms of cash flowing,” he said.

However, Morrell assured that the Pentagon will take “every step possible” to fulfill its obligations to protect the nation and support the troops deployed to war.

“It may involve asking a lot of hard-working people in this department to report to duty without an ability to pay them, or other extreme measures we would rather avoid, but we will get the job done, including in Iraq and Afghanistan and where else we operate around the world,” he said.

“But we hope and expect that it won't come to that and that Congress will act to resolve this matter in the next few weeks.”