BRAC funds added back in supplemental budget
WASHINGTON — House Democrats have pledged $3.1 billion in base closure funds previously removed from the federal budget, money that military officials say is needed to continue troop moves from Europe back to the United States.
But the funding is now included in this year’s supplemental war request, which links the money with plans to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008. The money had been trimmed from the fiscal 2007 federal budget in February.
Pentagon officials have said the closure funds are needed to prepare stateside bases for the influx of troops from overseas locations.
Last month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a Senate panel that without the money, nearly 5,000 soldiers headed to Georgia’s Fort Benning from overseas locations will face housing shortages, and another 26,000 soldiers headed to Texas’ Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston won’t have enough dental clinics and youth centers.
“That money is badly needed,” he said. “This bill is full of military construction projects that are essential as we relocate forces as part of the BRAC process, and it really becomes a serious problem.”
On Thursday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said party leaders decided to include the money in the supplemental request to make sure military leaders had the money available this year. Pentagon officials have said if they don’t receive the money by this summer it could delay some planned moves from Europe back stateside, as troops rotate out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Army officials have said they need the supplemental funds much sooner — by the end of April at the latest — to make sure soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have the equipment and support they need to continue the fight.
The BRAC funds, another $1.4 billion in housing allowance money, and a host of other add-ons pushed the Democrats’ supplemental proposal to over $110 billion, up from the president’s nearly $94 billion request.
The House is expected to pass the proposal out of committee next week, and vote on it the following week.