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U.S. Africa Command, which will debut next week, might have about $123 million less to spend on its programs than it asked for.

As part of the Fiscal 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to provide $266 million to AFRICOM. President Bush had requested $389 million to fund AFRICOM in its first year of operation.

"The money that is in the president’s request is the amount that U.S. AFRICOM considers appropriate to manage the many programs we have inherited …" said Vince Crawley, a press officer for AFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany.

But Crawley said it’s Congress’ role to determine appropriations, and the U.S. military’s role to work with what it receives.

The good news for AFRICOM is that the money designated this week is significantly more than the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense initially recommended. That committee had recommended an initial budget of $80.6 million.

Attempts Thursday to reach several ranking Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee were unsuccessful. But Jim Specht, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said House Democrats appear to have reached agreement with their counterparts in the Senate on most budget items.

Specht said similar legislation "will likely be passed in the Senate today or tomorrow." That would leave it to President Bush to sign the legislation or veto it.

Specht said the legislation essentially funds most of the government at fiscal 2008 levels through March. Exceptions include funding for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and military construction.

According to a summary of defense appropriations posted on the committee’s Web site, Congress members decided to provide $123 million less than the president asked for "… because of the failure to establish an AFRICOM presence on the continent and to correctly account for a funding transfer."

AFRICOM announced in May that it wouldn’t be setting up a headquarters on the continent, at least in the near future. It is currently based in Stuttgart, which also hosts the U.S. European Command.

Crawley said the budget request was designed to support "well over 100" programs that the command inherited from EUCOM, the U.S. Pacific Command and various other entities that have been operating in Africa during the past several decades.

Those programs include operating a joint task force in Djibouti; an effort with the State Department and Northern African nations to target regional terrorism; helping to form modern coast guards to take on pirates, trafficking and illegal fishing; training peacekeepers and educating and training militaries in several countries; and building military partnerships throughout the continent.

AFRICOM is set to become fully operational Oct. 1. The Air Force designated the 17th Air Force as its AFRICOM component earlier this month and the other services are expected to announce their contributions shortly.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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