Pentagon Seeks $9.6 Billion Shift to Priority Projects

The Pentagon is asking Congress to approve a plan shifting about $9.6 billion in this year’s defense budget to priority projects, mostly to pay for greater-than-expected Afghanistan war and transportation costs.

The largest single request is to move $1.3 billion into Army operations and maintenance “to support funding shortfalls for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan operations,” according to budget documents sent to Congress yesterday.

No funds would be taken from major weapons, naval or aircraft programs, according to the documents. The reprogramming requests in most cases would take money from about 200 smaller-scale research and weapons-buying accounts.

The Pentagon is asking to re-allocate $1 billion to cover increased fuel costs. Non-war-related program increases include an additional $75 million for more cyber defense personnel, $71.4 million to maintain F-35 fighter jet software test schedules and $28 million for the DDG-51 destroyer program’s Aegis Weapons System.

The largest cut from a weapons program would be a proposed $562 million reduction in money for upgrades to Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, fortified vehicles. More typical are a proposed $47.2 million reduction from Northrop Grumman Corp.’s MQ-4C Triton drone and a $115 million cut to Boeing Co.’s AH-64 Apache helicopter upgrade.

The request was sent to Congress along with the Pentagon’s final fiscal 2014 war-fighting budget of $79.4 billion. The House Armed Services Committee next week is to start its consideration of the defense bill, the first leg of the annual budget-approval cycle for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Covering Shortages

The reprogramming request isn’t intended to offset any of the $37 billion in automatic cuts the Pentagon faces this year from the process known as sequestration, according to a defense official who spoke about the plan on condition of not being named. Instead, it’s designed largely to shift dollars into the current war-fighting budget to cover shortages that remain after the full-year defense spending measure Congress passed in March.

The official said Pentagon and military planners hoped Congress passes the reprogramming request largely intact by early June. The reprogramming is comparable in size to past requests, said the official. It must be approved by four House and Senate defense-related committees.

Shifting Priorities

Almost $668 million would be shifted from lower-priority accounts to cover unanticipated additional costs of transporting goods into Afghanistan through northern distribution networks instead of primarily through Pakistan.

“While the Pakistan ground lines of communication are currently open, there is excess frustrated cargo that has accumulated and must flow out first before other equipment is moved,” the request said. “Failure to provide these funds runs the risk of an interruption in the flow of supplies, subsistence and mail to deployed warfighters.”

An additional $234 million is needed to support “premium transportation” of perishable foods in the theater as well as about $591 million to plug funding gaps in the Army’s multibillion dollar Logistics Civil Augmentation Program that provides food, transportation, power generation and base support.

The Pentagon is also asking to shift more than $925 million into Air Force wartime operations and maintenance accounts to make up for shortages in “base communications” throughout the Persian Gulf region and other deficiencies.

An additional $190 million would be allocated to increased contractor logistics support for the aerostat-based Persistent Ground Surveillance Sensor System that protects U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

Additional Officers

The Army, separate from war funding, requires $770 million to pay for the retention of 8,400 additional officers, according to the documents.

The request would get the money through reductions that include $762 million from tactical and support vehicles; $306 million from Army aircraft procurement; and $270 million from tracked combat vehicles.

General Dynamics Corp.’s WIN-T ground mobile communications network program would be reduced $128 million because of a decision to reduce quantities this year.

The Pentagon also seeks to shift $37 million from the General Dynamics Stryker combat vehicle modification program.

Navy research and development accounts would be pared by $134 million, Navy and Marine Corps ammunition would be reduced by $111 million, pay and allowances for the Navy and Marines would be trimmed by $75 million and Navy aircraft spending by $13.4 million.

Air Force research and development accounts would be reduced by $328 million, aircraft accounts by $283 million, personnel accounts by $135.2 million and missiles by $79 million

One of the smallest savings was $375,000 found from the cancellation of an aircraft-refueling truck for Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

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