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Pentagon To Shift Funds To Pay for Iraq War

Kristin Roberts

The Pentagon plans to shift $9.7 billion of its overall budget to pay for war operations but warned on Wednesday it will run out of money if the U.S. Congress does not approve more funding by mid-July.

The Defense Department, with major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, sent Congress requests to transfer $5.7 billion to the Army's personnel account from the personnel accounts of other branches of the U.S. armed services.

It also asked Congress for permission to move $4 billion from the services' operations and maintenance accounts to the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command, whose troops train local security forces and conduct counterterrorism missions.

If approved, the transfers will allow the Pentagon to continue operations until late July, according to department spokesman Bryan Whitman.

"I don't want to leave you with the impression that this provides us a whole lot," he said.

"This $9.7 billion reprogramming only buys another few weeks of operations until the department as a whole will then run out of critical funding."

The struggle between the Pentagon and Congress over war funding plays out about twice a year. Lawmakers have used the issue to debate the merits of the Iraq war and sometimes tried to attach amendments to the bill that set a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon warns it will run out of funds and, as it did last year, sends notices to commanders to prepare for cuts. Those moves are seen by some Democrats as scare tactics.

The Senate last week approved an extra $165 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House of Representatives has approved a significantly different war funding bill.

If lawmakers ultimately give President George W. Bush the war funds he has requested, Congress will have appropriated more than $800 billion for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Most of those funds have been used in Iraq.

Editing by John O'Callaghan

© 2008 Reuters

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