European edition, Thursday, May 3, 2007

WASHINGTON — Defense officials are again predicting tour extensions, training delays and a civilian hiring freeze if Congress and the president can’t agree on supplemental funding for the military in the next two weeks.

On Tuesday, Bush vetoed a $124 billion measure to help fill in funding shortfalls for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats in Congress had put deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq in the bill, which Bush called “setting a date for failure.”

House Democrats failed to override that veto on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers instead to work out a deal on new legislation.

But Defense officials are saying that answer needs to come before May 15, when the budget crunch will force them to start making cuts to ensure that troops fighting overseas have the supplies and support they need.

“These disruptions will have a genuinely adverse effect on the readiness of the Army, and the quality of life for soldiers and their families,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Maka, spokesman for the Defense Department.

He said training rotations for seven Army brigade combat teams may be delayed or curtailed, and Army units already in theater will see their tours extended if their replacements aren’t ready to deploy.

Maka said Army officials have already suspended repairs worldwide for barracks and other noncombat base facilities, and put training on hold for certain Reserve units.

The service also has stopped repairs on predeployment training vehicles to save money. Repair work at all Army depots will need to be further reduced by the end of this month without new funding, he said.

On Wednesday, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats hope to reach a compromise “as quickly as possible” but could not say if a resolution will be reached by May 15.

In a statement Tuesday, Reid said the vetoed legislation would have fully funded the military’s needs and “if the president thinks that by vetoing this bill he will stop us from working to change the direction of this war, he is mistaken.”

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has approved more than $500 billion in funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the latest supplemental bill.

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