Army extends cost-cutting, despite emergency funding bill
July 22, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — Citing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army said Thursday that it will continue to curb spending on civilian hiring, nonessential travel, and other costs not directly related to the war, despite Congress passing the fiscal 2006 emergency wartime funding bill three weeks ago.
In early June, the Army’s vice chief of staff Gen. Richard Cody ordered what an Army press release characterized as a series of “temporary means to preserve solvency in fiscal 2006,” which ends Sept. 30.
The measures were necessary because Congress worked longer than expected on the Bush administration’s request for an additional $81.9 billion to cover the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army has more than 100,000 soldiers deployed to Iraq, plus responsibility for logistic support for itself and its sister services. It also equips, trains and supports the Iraqi security forces.
The cuts, Cody said in an Army memorandum, were the only way the service could keep itself afloat until Congress approved the supplemental money, which occurred this month. But Thursday, Army officials announced that the spending restrictions will continue into fiscal 2007.
Belt-tightening measures that will stay in place include:
Limiting supply purchases to critical wartime needs only
Cancellation and/or postponement of all non-mission-essential travel
Stopping shipment of goods, unless necessary to support deployed units or those preparing to deploy
A hiring freeze on new civilians, except for new interns and lateral moves/promotions of current employees
Releasing temporary employees (who will not be hired back even with receipt of supplemental funding)
A freeze on all new contract awards and all new task orders on existing contracts
Restrictions on the use of government credit cards
“We’re anticipating that it will be smart for us to maintain [our spending] where we are now, so we can continue to fight the global war on terror,” Lt. Col. William Wiggins, an Army spokesman, told Stars and Stripes.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, said July 14 that in 2004 it cost $4 billion to repair or replace war equipment, but now it has reached $12 billion to $13 billion. “And in my view, we will continue to see this escalate,” he told a Defense Forum Foundation roundtable on the Army’s role on the war on terror in Washington. The Army is using up equipment at four times the rate for which it was designed, he added.
Schoomaker traced the problem’s origin to entering the Iraq war in 2003 with a $56 billion shortfall in equipment. The Army managed the situation by rotating in fresh units while keeping the same equipment in Iraq. Over time, he said, the equipment has worn out without sufficient investment in replacements.
The Army chief said there is too little money available to keep up with equipment repairs. He said the Army’s five major repair depots are operating at only 50 percent of capacity, resulting in a backlog of 1,000 Humvees awaiting attention at the Red River Army Depot in Texas and 500 tanks at a depot in Alabama. The Army’s 2006 budget is $98.2 billion, and the 2007 budget request not yet approved by Congress seeks $111 billion for the Army.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.