Pentagon asks Congress for authority to transfer funds for war

The Pentagon has asked Congress for the authorization to borrow and transfer $9.7 billion from various accounts to pay for war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The so-called reprogramming request is necessary because a new war supplemental funding bill is still pending in Congress, the Department of Defense stated.

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Senate last week that, if Congress did not approve the remainder of the 2008 war supplemental, he would submit a reprogramming request — taking money from less pressing accounts to front war costs — on May 27 to avoid depletion of the Army’s personnel and operations funds.

The Pentagon submitted two reprogramming requests to Congress on Tuesday: One would transfer $5.7 billion from the military personnel accounts of the other services to the Army’s military personnel account; the second would transfer $4 billion from the operation and maintenance accounts of the other services and the Department of Defense Working Capital Fund to the Army and Special Operations Command operations and maintenance accounts.

Without the ability to transfer these funds, the Army will run out of military personnel funds necessary to pay its soldiers by June 15, according to the Pentagon. In order to avoid that, Congress would have to approve the reprogramming requests by June 9, according to the Pentagon.

The Army will run out of money to pay its soldiers, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, after June 15, Gates told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee last week.

Around July 5, all services starting with the Army will run out of operations and maintenance funds.

“This may result in civilian furloughs, limits on training and curbing family support activities,” said Gates.

If war funds will not be available by the end of May, the Pentagon can transfer funds from Navy and Air Force military personnel accounts to pay soldiers, but that maneuver can sustain the Pentagon only until late July.