Congressional funding stalemate threatens IED work
Stars and Stripes
ARLINGTON, Va. — Research into combating roadside bombs could be in jeopardy as lawmakers continue debate over the latest round of supplemental funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon official.
If Congress fails to pass this fiscal year’s Defense supplemental by the end of this month, the Defense Department would have to hold off funding “any new initiatives” to protect troops from roadside bombs, according to Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman. He defined new initiatives as “anything that requires new funding.”
House and Senate negotiators were scheduled to meet Tuesday night to craft compromise legislation on the supplemental funding issue.
The House’s emergency spending bill totals $93.2 billion, with about two-thirds of that to pay for military operations overseas. Another $20 billion would go for reconstruction efforts related to Hurricane Katrina.
In April, the Senate passed a $106.5 billion version, which included additional funds for things such as port security, agriculture disaster assistance and aid for industries affected by the hurricane.
The extra spending has come under fire from both the House and President Bush. Both versions call for $1.9 billion of additional funding for the Joint IED Defeat Organization, a group lead by retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs and tasked with combating the problem of roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whitman said the Defense Department is close to its legal limit of transferring funds to fight the war on terrorism, but would not discuss other possible ways to fund the anti-IED efforts.
“We are squeezing money out of where we can and where we have sufficient authorities to do that,” Whitman said.
The Army has already announced spending cuts on spare parts, travel and transportation, and temporary civilian contractors due to the delay in the emergency spending bill’s passage.
Reporter Leo Shane contributed to this story.