Pentagon Asks Congress to Shift Billions in Funding

The Pentagon asked Congress to shift $8.2 billion in previously approved fiscal 2012 funds to bankroll “higher priority” items, including added fuel costs to resupply U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The shift is detailed in an 82-page “reprogramming request” sent to congressional defense committees yesterday. It would provide at least $772 million to pay for increased fuel costs for transporting supplies by northern routes into Afghanistan after Pakistan closed its ground lines to U.S. convoys.

Pakistan cut off use of its routes in November after NATO and U.S. forces accidentally fired on Pakistani troops, killing 24 soldiers. The closing has forced the U.S. to use more expensive northern routes, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said added about $100 million a month to the cost of resupplying troops.

“Without this funding the Army runs the risk of an interruption in the flow of supplies, subsistence and mail to deployed warfighters,” according to the document sent to Congress.

The Pentagon also asked approval to provide $20 million to reflect the “rapid increase” in costs related to the military trial of accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants. The money would go to the Defense Legal Services Agency, which is already getting $104.6 million in the current year.

Congressional Approval

The reprogramming must be approved by the four congressional defense committees -- the authorization and appropriations panels in the House and Senate -- before the shift takes effect.

Reflecting plans to bolster Persian Gulf naval forces, the Pentagon requested $9.6 million to buy missile launchers for five ships from Raytheon Co. That would allow installation of Griffin missiles on U.S. patrol boats “to protect vessels and personnel from the increased threat of hostile fast-attack craft” used by Iran, according to the document.

The request also includes $6.4 million to buy 40 additional Griffin missiles for installation on Navy patrol vessels in the Gulf.

The Pentagon plans to spend $30.2 million on the Raytheon system through 2017 because it was urgently requested by the U.S. Central Command, according to the document.

Iraq, Afghanistan

The Defense Department also asked approval to spend $29.9 million, in addition to $80.5 million already budgeted, to accelerate development of a missile designed to intercept rockets fired from low-elevation angles by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan at U.S. diplomatic and military personnel.

“This system will greatly improve soldier force protection,” the Defense Department said in the document.

Within the services, the Army will see a shift of $3.7 billion in funds; the Air Force, $2.8 billion; the Navy, $1 billion; and Pentagon-wide agencies, $574 million.

Among the Army reductions are $619.7 million from “other procurement” such as vehicles and electronics, including $334.6 million from the WIN-T Ground Tactical Network made by General Dynamics Corp.

Also from the Army, $514 million would be shifted from operations and maintenance; $102.9 million from tracked combat vehicles; and $86.4 million from ammunition.

The reprogramming requests that $228 million be shifted from Navy personnel accounts and $119 million from cruiser modernization programs.

‘Glide’ Bombs

At the request of the Marines Corps, the Pentagon asked to shift $8 million to start a new program arming small drones with precision-guided “glide” bombs. The RQ-7B Shadow drones are designed to fly as high as 8,000 feet (2,438 meters.)

The money would buy 215 bombs Marines could use to kill insurgents in Afghanistan who plant roadside bombs, the Pentagon said.

“The First Marine Expeditionary Force estimated 90 occasions over a six-month” Afghan deployment when insurgents could have been attacked, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon also acknowledged the U.S. needs to be more vigilant in tracking social-media sites globally. The Defense Department sought $2.7 million to give special operations commandos access to instant translations and transcriptions.

“A combination of emergent technologies and new social media -- i.e. Twitter, blogs, Facebook -- and current events has brought about the critical need to find a solution to this capability gap,” the Pentagon said in the document.

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