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Air Force Might Cut Pay for Surge
Military.com | By Christian Lowe | April 25, 2007The Air Force’s top officer said Wednesday that if nearly $1 billion in personnel funds taken from the service to pay for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t restored by the end of the summer, Airmen and civilian employees might not get their pay.
Due to a congressional delay in approving a wartime supplemental funding bill this year, the Pentagon pulled about $880 million from the Air Force’s personnel accounts to make up for a shortfall it warned lawmakers would come in mid-April.Poll: Should Air Force personnel be used to man Army billets in Iraq?
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael “Buzz” Moseley said at a breakfast meeting with reporters today that the money is coming out of the military personnel account earmarked for the last four months of the year.
“Somebody’s going to have to pay us back,” Moseley said. “You have to pay people every day when they come to work.”
“A: it’s the right thing to do, and B: it’s kind of the law,” he added.
The shortfall could delay permanent change of station moves, temporary duty expenses and other pays that “take care of people,” he said.
On April 15, the Army announced it would have to cut training, depot repair, and maintenance of non war-related gear because funding for the surge in Iraq, combat operations in Afghanistan and other Global War on Terrorism costs was running dry.
The Army also requested that about $1.6 billion be diverted from the Air Force and Navy personnel accounts to help put the wartime funding tab in the black.
With Congress locked in a political battle with the Bush administration over withdrawal deadlines and troop rotation schedules, the $100 billion wartime spending bill to pay for operations through the end of the fiscal year has yet to be signed into law.
Though both the Senate and House have submitted the supplemental bill to the floor for a vote this week, President Bush has vowed a veto over withdrawal deadlines inserted into the law.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace has said if the wartime funds aren’t in place by mid-May, even more drastic cuts will have to be made, including reductions in training for forces on their way to Iraq, which will force the Pentagon to extend the deployments of units already there.
“The comptroller now has a check that they’re going to have to give us back to pay for [personnel] as we get closer to the end of the summer,” Moseley explained, putting the screws to Pentagon and administration budgeteers to recoup the loss.
“I don’t want to have any concerns about getting that money back,” he said. “It would be a breach of faith to take mil-pers money out of a service and then fast forward a couple of quarters and then just say ‘eat it.’”
Moseley said he’ll resist providing Airmen to man jobs the Army and Marine Corps can’t fill due to high operational tempo and increased demand, insisting his service is “drawing some red lines” to deny ground commanders’ requests.
About 20,000 Air Force personnel have filled shortfalls in the ground services’ manning – dubbed “in lieu of taskings” – including convoy and base security operations and even detainee handling jobs. As early as 2005, Air Force security personnel began augmenting Army detainee-handling troops at Camp Bucca prison near Baghdad and have continued to man prison jobs in Iraq.
“We don’t guard prisoners, we don’t even have a prison,” Moseley said. “To take out people and train them to be a detainee-guarding entity requires time away from their normal job.”
Some U.S.-based Air Force commands have as many as 25 percent of their personnel deployed to Iraq and are still executing their home station duties. For example, the San Angelo, Texas-based 17th Training Wing has its crash, fire, and rescue teams and security force units deployed “and we’re still operating the wing,” Moseley said.
Moseley said he’s happy to provide personnel with job skills the Air Force has in abundance, including drivers and information technology specialists. But “I am less supportive of things outside of our competencies,” he said.
“We’ve drawn some red lines on some of the ‘in lieu of’ taskings to get away from the tasking of our folks that is incredibly outside the competencies.”
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