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Bush, Gates Comment On Partial War Funding

By Fred W. Baker III

Bush, Gates Comment on Partial War Funding Approved by Congress

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 - President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today thanked Congress for approving emergency defense spending yesterday, but both men said more money is needed to prosecute the war on terror and other defense operations.

The $70 billion in funds for the war on terror Congress approved yesterday will forestall Army and Marine Corps civilian furloughs, but still falls short of fully funding defense operations, officials said.

Congress yesterday approved a $555 billion omnibus spending bill with $70 billion in emergency funds earmarked for the war on terror. The funds were approved without any timetable for troop withdrawal, the point of contention between some in Congress and the White House that led to a last-minute passage before a holiday recess.

"I appreciated that they included a down payment on the funding request for our troops on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq without an artificial timetable for withdrawal," Bush said in a White House news conference. "These brave men and women are risking their lives to protect us, and they deserve the full support of the U.S. government."

"It will give us the money to run the war for several more months, but our total request was for $189 billion for the supplemental," Gates said in an interview. "So this is forcing us to plan short-term and to make decisions short-term, and there may be a worse way to manage a huge operation and do everything short-term, sort of month-to-month, but I can't think of it.

"So, (I am) grateful to the Congress for providing us with this $70 billion, but providing us the money in fits and starts like this makes long-term planning and doing things the most efficient possible way almost impossible," Gates said.

Congress passed a $460 billion Defense Appropriations Act for 2008, but this is not enough to fund ongoing operations, officials said.

Above the $55.7 billion needed to continue fighting, the emergency appropriation also will provide money for $1.1 billion in military pay and benefits, $6 billion to replace and repair combat equipment, $4.3 billion to fund counter-improvised-explosive-device efforts, and $2.9 billion for Iraqi and Afghan security forces, according to DoD officials.

It will not, however, provide money needed to pay U.S. troops for the full year, and operating funds will run out again in the spring, officials said. Equipment replacements will be delayed, and money for Iraq and Afghan security forces will run out in spring as well.

The House passed a $50 billion bill in November with funds to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it included legislation that directed the president to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by December 2008. The measure failed in the Senate, and the president vowed to veto any bill that includes a troop-withdrawal timetable.

Earlier this month, Gates requested to shift $3.7 billion from Navy and Air Force payrolls and an $800 million excess in the working capital fund to Army and Marine Corps operations. If funding would have been delayed, it could have affected as many as 200,000 civilian employees and contractors, DoD officials reported earlier.


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