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Resource shortages not limited to reserve units

The increased funding provided by the normal defense budgets and war-related supplemental spending bills is not meeting active-duty needs either, Defense officials say.

Defense Department financial officials conceded Wednesday they are not providing National Guard and Reserve units the funding and resources they need to meet the huge increase in their operational demands due to the war on terrorism.

But they told the commission studying the status of those forces that they also cannot meet the funding needs of their active-duty forces. The operational tempo of both the Guard and reserves "has increased at a far greater rate than resources," said P. Jackson Bell, deputy Defense undersecretary for logistics and material readiness.

While the Pentagon has taken steps to resolve those shortfalls and President Bush has requested significant additional funds to help the military reserve components get the equipment and training they need, Bell said that "will not resolve all the problems. A continuing and significant funding level will be required."

But Bell, Pentagon Comptroller David Patterson and top budget officials from the Army, Navy and Air Force said the increased funding provided by the normal defense budgets and war-related supplemental spending bills is not meeting active-duty needs either. That forces the various services to use available funds to first ensure that the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have everything they need, then provide for the units ready to deploy to the war zone, then to begin equipping and training those units who will go next, they said.

"The pace of operations, and the process of prioritizing the readiness of deploying units, has caused a reduction in the readiness of non-deployed units," both active and reserve, said Patterson.

That condition was best described by Army Comptroller Nelson Ford, who said a comprehensive study last year of the "true cost" of operating the Army, which is bearing the brunt of Iraq operations, showed a need for $138 billion a year in continuous funding, while the fiscal 2008 budget requests only $131 billion. "Our baseline budgets do not meet this threshold," he said.

And those costs do not include the cost of increasing the size of active and reserve units, a goal endorsed by President Bush earlier this year. Air Force and Navy budget officials expressed similar concerns, noting that they are reducing their personnel numbers to help pay for badly needed new equipment.

The testimony was the beginning of the final phase of work by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. As the commission met, Thomas Hall, assistant Defense secretary for reserve affairs, announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had ordered the implementation of 20 of the panels' 23 recommendations made in its March 1 interim report.