Army says $13 billion needed to repair, replace equipment

The Army needs more than $13 billion within the next 60 days to repair and replace equipment damaged or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the service will have to delay efforts to restore battlefield equipment stocks, a senior Army official said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army's deputy chief of staff for programs, warned that an fiscal 2008 funding delay would jeopardize the service's efforts to get much-needed equipment to troops in the field quickly.

It is "simple arithmetic," Speakes told reporters this morning at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference. "You can't order the part without the money."

Last year, Congress approved $17.1 billion for the Army's so-called equipment "reset" efforts as part of a $70 billion wartime bridge fund attached to the fiscal 2007 Defense appropriations bill, giving service leaders adequate time and money to order enough spare and replacement parts to keep depot lines running throughout the year.

But that money is quickly running out, and service officials expect they will need to replenish their inventories by December. By March or April, repair lines at the Army's depots could come to a halt, Speakes said.

Increasingly frustrated with the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war, senior House appropriators last week said they would not consider its $193 billion fiscal 2008 supplemental spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until next year.

House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., has stated that Congress will not allow funding to run out for deployed troops, leaving open the possibility of attaching a large wartime bridge fund to the fiscal 2008 Defense spending bill, currently the subject of House-Senate conference negotiations.

Between the possible bridge fund and the military's ability to transfer fourth-quarter dollars in its base budget to pay for the war, money for operations would be adequate through March, Murtha has said.

But Tuesday Speakes stressed the Army needs the reset funding up front in one large chunk to allow the service to order adequate repair parts and keep the lines going -- not in smaller increments appropriated throughout the year. "I won't be able to meet the requirements unless I get the funding I need when I need it," Speakes said.

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