Defense Daily: Hill To Weigh War Supplemental Next Month

Hill To Weigh War Supplemental Next Month
Defense Daily, March 2, 2010, Volume 245, No. 39, pg. 2
By Emelie Rutherford (subscription required)

Congress is expected to start considering in mid-April President Barack Obama’s $33 billion request for supplemental war funding for the current fiscal year, which is expected to be approved without any major skirmishes.

Though Obama pledged to end the Bush administration practice of funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through such emergency appropriations bills, he has requested the $33 billion FY ’10 supplemental to fund a buildup of troops in Afghanistan.

The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) is expected to kick off consideration of the measure with a markup session on or around April 15. That date falls on the week after a two-week congressional recess set to begin on March 27. Until then, the congressional defense committees will continue to be enmeshed in hearings on the Pentagon’s request for a $548.9 billion base budget and $159.3 billion in war funding for FY ’11, which begins Oct. 1.

Senate appropriators are also expected to take up the FY ’10 supplemental soon after the congressional recess.

The $33 billion war-funding proposal is dominated by operations costs and does not include much procurement. Yet it notably seeks $1.1 billion for buying additional Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP) for Afghanistan; that money combined with $3.4 billion in the Pentagon’s war-funding request for FY ’11 is intended to meet the Pentagon’s requirement for 28,882 trucks in the MRAP family of vehicles, which includes the newer MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV).

The FY ’11 “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) war-funding proposal--which the administration requested at the same time as the base budget, and not as a supplemental--includes much more procurement funding, for items including the reconstitution of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, trucks, and tactical vehicles including Bradleys and Strykers.

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), have objected to the practice of funding the war through off-the-books emergency supplemental appropriations. And some liberal politicians have raised concerns about the $33 billion FY ’10 supplemental because they oppose the troop surge in Afghanistan. Still, lawmakers and aides widely say they expect the FY ‘10 supplemental to pass Congress
with ease.

Army Secretary John McHugh said his service can fund the wars through the end of June or beginning of July, at which point it will need the supplemental funding for the remainder of FY ’10.

McHugh told Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a budget hearing last week that the use of supplementals may have to continue.

“If we’re going to operate in...these types of theaters, yes, we absolutely do,” McHugh said. He told McCain only around $8 billion of the Army’s OCO war-funding request could be migrated to the base

“So we will probably see supplemental requests for a long period of time,” McCain said.

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