Study says Pentagon could make Iraq funds last until July

The Pentagon can finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until as late as July under a worst-case scenario of a protracted standoff between Democrats and President Bush over the fiscal 2007 war supplemental, the Congressional Research Service has found.

Bush and Republicans have argued the military needs the funding as early as mid-April, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said May 15 is the absolute latest the Army could go without having to defer critical expenses and perhaps forego training for units set to be deployed to Iraq.

"This study confirms that the president is once again attempting to mislead the public and create an artificial atmosphere of anxiety," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement Friday. "He is using scare tactics to defeat bipartisan legislation that would change course in Iraq."

An Office of Management and Budget spokesman said, "The nation's top military officials have testified before Congress on the immediate need for getting funds to our troops on the ground, and to suggest otherwise for political gain is a clear indication of Congress' desire to tie the hands of our military commanders and micromanage the war."

In a memo to the Senate Budget Committee dated Wednesday, the congressional analysts said the Army has enough money in its existing budget to fund operations and maintenance through the end of May -- about $52.6 billion. If additional transfer authority is tapped, subject to Congress approving a reprogramming request, the Army would have enough funds to make it through nearly two additional months, or toward the end of July.

Using all of its transfer authority, the Army could have as much as $60.1 billion available. Using only a portion of that transfer authority, the Army could have enough money to get through June.

"The Army has suggested that these actions would disrupt its programs including facilities repair, depot maintenance and training," the CRS memo states. "Although it is true that a delay in passage of the fiscal 2007 supplemental could require additional management actions, Congress has given DOD flexibility by providing transfer authority so that funds can be moved to meet more urgent requirements."

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