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Army Might Need More New Spending in 2008 to Cover ‘Surge’ Costs

Despite a half-trillion-dollar spending request for fiscal 2008, the Pentagon may need significantly more money to cover the costs of equipping the “surge” of troops being sent to Iraq, a top Army official said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Charles Anderson, the Army’s director of force management, told reporters at a Pentagon roundtable that the additional money likely would be needed to cover equipment for the 21,500 additional troops that President Bush is sending to Iraq in an effort to stabilize the country.

Bush’s fiscal 2008 request for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan already seeks $13.5 billion for repairing and replacing equipment that is lost or worn out during fighting — a term the Army calls “reset.”

Anderson said that the official budget request does not fully account for the cost of equipment for the increased forces. “I think that’s going to have to go up,” he said.

In recent years, Congress has provided tens of billions of dollars for reset costs through supplemental spending bills. These funds that are not included in the annual defense budget. But the fiscal 2008 request marked the first time the Pentagon submitted war costs with its annual budget rather than waiting until later in the year to seek supplemental spending.

At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers that the fiscal 2008 request complies with “Congress’s direction to include the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the annual Defense Department budget.”

Gates made no mention of needing additional funding.

Anderson said the Army needs more money because the strain of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have broken its normal troop rotation cycle.

Ideally, Army personnel serve one year on deployment and then at a home base for two years. But currently, the Army is not adhering to the model, with troops typically spending one year in the theater and 13 months back at their home base.

Anderson said that reset costs are also driven by the sheer number of deployed units and the “level of activity” that those units are involved in.

Meanwhile, Gates warned lawmakers that the Army still needs supplemental funding for the current fiscal year approved by April to cover war costs, or else it may take money from other programs. The Pentagon has requested $93.4 billion in supplemental spending for fiscal 2007 to cover war costs, much of that going to the Army.

Gates said the Army would be affected first and most “dramatically” if the supplemental is delayed.

“If these additional funds are delayed, the military will be forced to make up the shortfall,” Gates said. “Timely enactment of this supplemental request is critical to ensuring that our troops in the field have the resources they need.”

Gates explained that the supplemental includes money to cover a portion of the cost of sending additional troops to Iraq, but since the “surge” has all ready begun, the department is already spending money to send additional troops over.

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