Funding crunch hits research of roadside bombs
Stars and Stripes
The organization tasked with defeating roadside bombs is temporarily short on cash.
The Joint IED Defeat Organization has less than $50 million available for new projects, retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs, who heads the group, said Thursday.
He said the temporary funding shortfall won’t stop troops downrange from getting training they need, but “we’re not funding the programs that we could.”
The group received more than $1.9 billion at the start of the fiscal year for research and development of radio jammers, disposal training, detection devices and other anti-bomb technology.
Officials were promised another $2.4 billion in the midyear supplemental budget, but lawmakers and President Bush clashed over that measure after Congress tied the money to a time line for withdrawing from Iraq.
Bush vetoed the first version of the funding bill, and Congress is working on a new proposal.
According to funding reports filed with Congress, only about $60 million of the organization’s $1.9 billion in funds this year has actually been spent.
But Meigs said nearly all the rest has been committed to the services, which then award contracts.
Meigs said that leaves the group with a cash flow problem.
Steven Kosiak, a budget studies expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the shortfall doesn’t come as a major surprise, since the Pentagon has been relying on supplemental funds to pay for many programs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“But this is the problem you run into when you fund anticipated nonemergency programs in an unanticipated emergency way,” he said.
“At a basic level, this program is a top priority if not the top priority right now, so you’re surprised they don’t have all of their funding,” he said. “But they have the ability to reprogram other funds, and so this should just be a temporary problem.”
Last summer, Pentagon officials warned the delay in passing the fiscal 2006 supplemental budget might stall initiatives to fight roadside bombs, but JIEDDO was able to get temporary funding from Congress to continue its work without disruption.
Again this year, JIEDDO is working with Congress to get $825 million in temporary funding that come from the military services’ pay accounts.
“I’ve got to convince them that we really need it and we’re working hard to maintain good faith with them,” Meigs said.
House Armed Services Committee officials said that request is under consideration, but could not offer a time line for when the money will be available.
If that arrives before the supplemental funding, JIEDDO would repay that money when the other $2.4 billion arrives.
Stars and Stripes reporter Leo Shane contributed to this story.