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G.I.S' PAYCHECKS FUND TRUCK ARMOR

m915.jpgSo the Pentagon leadership has finally recognized that they need to armor up their trucks. But they've settled on a damn peculiar way of paying for the work. They're dipping into soldiers' paychecks to do it.Let me explain. For this fiscal year, 2005, Rummy & Co. asked for $25.7 million to secure its fleet of trucks. And Congress granted the request, when it passed the Pentagon's budget in July.But by November 19th, the Pentagon brass realized they had screwed up, Defense Department documents show. There was no way $25.7 million could pay for armoring the M915 trucks, Medium Tactical Vehicles, and other vehicles hauling supplies through Iraq; to do the job right, more like $580 million would be needed. The chiefs had under budgeted, more than twenty-fold.The problem was, the Defense Department's budget for the year was already passed. And it was too early, yet, for a second, "supplemental" funding bill. So, instead, the Pentagon's eyeshades decided to "reprogram" money, from one military project into another.Now, the accountants could have taken money from hulking, multi-billion dollar items, like the F-22 fighter or the creaky missile defense program. But no. Instead, the cash along with about a billion dollars in other funds -- was taken from the Army's payroll. From the accounts to pay soldiers in the field.With that money gone, there's now only enough cash left in the register to keep paying soldiers until May or so. If a "supplemental" budget bill rumored to be $75 billion or more -- isn't passed by then, there will be no paychecks for G.I.s.Congress will never let that happen, of course. No politician in his right mind is going to keep soldiers from getting paid. So, in the end, G.I.s will get the money they've been promised.But, still, wouldn't it have been better to get this armor money together in the first place? The war has been going on since last March. Planning for it started in 2002. And only on November 19th did the Pentagon realize it needed more money to armor up its trucks?

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