Politico: Pentagon says it has no money for Middle East buildup

    WORLD  29 November 2023 - 11:53

    The Defense Department has ordered an additional aircraft carrier strike group, air defences, fighter jets and hundreds of troops to the Middle East since the surprise terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, in an effort to prevent the conflict from spiralling into a regional war.

    The problem: Congressional dysfunction means the Pentagon has no money to pay for the buildup, according to Politico.

    The military, like the rest of the federal government, is operating under a temporary funding measure that freezes spending at the previous year’s levels. And because the Middle East troop movements weren’t planned, the Pentagon has had to pull money from existing operations and maintenance accounts, DOD spokesperson Chris Sherwood said. President Joe Biden signed the stopgap measure this month to keep the government open until lawmakers can agree on a full-year spending bill.

    Because DOD had to hunt for funds, that means less money for training, exercises and deployments the military had already planned for the year. Some contractual payments could be delayed, Sherwood said.

    “Current events have revised some of the operational assumptions used to develop the FY 2024 President’s Budget request. Specifically, neither the base budget request nor the FY 2024 supplemental request included funding for U.S. operations related to Israel,” he said.

    “We’re taking it out of hide,” Sherwood added.

    The buildup in the Middle East — which has included extending the deployment of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group operating off the coast of Israel — has therefore forced the military departments and U.S. Central Command to reassess the requirements for current and future operations based on the developing conflict, he said.

    As of Tuesday afternoon, DOD said it was still working on releasing an estimate of the total cost of the U.S. support for Israel.

    Top Pentagon officials warn year after year about the harm that temporary funding measures have on military readiness. Operating under a stopgap measure prevents the department from starting any new programs or paying for anything above the previous year’s levels.

    That burden is now weighing heavier than usual on DOD, as the Pentagon supports two wars at once: in Ukraine and in Israel.

    “We’ve gotten used to getting by, CR to CR, but it’s with significant consequence,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said during a Nov. 21 event in Washington, using the abbreviation for continuing resolution. “That has a cost. You can’t buy back the time. You just can’t.”

    Hicks estimated the impact of keeping the Pentagon under the stopgap effectively means the department takes a $35 billion cut.

    “We have a responsibility to build trust with Congress — to get done what we want to get done,” Hicks said. “But the truth of the matter is, trust is a two-way street, and we are really being challenged to trust that our partners in Congress can get done what they need to do for us to achieve those ends.”

    Once the continuing resolution runs out Feb. 2, it’s up to lawmakers to pass a full-year spending bill. But if the bickering drags on through April, the Pentagon and other federal agencies will face a 1 per cent across-the-board spending cut.

    Caliber.Az

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