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Army's Contrived Cash Crunch

Empty-pockets.jpgTimes are tight at the Army -- sorta kinda, at least for the moment. Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody has ordered the service to stop buying "non-critical" spare parts and supplies last week, Inside Defense reports. And if the Army doesn't get some extra money from Congress soon, it'll have to stop hiring new civilian workers, "freeze" all new contracts, and "release service contract employees, [including] recruiters," according to a May 26th memo from Cody.Sure sounds like a crisis. But it's actually one Cody & Co. cooked up themselves. For years, the Army has been relying more and more on "supplemental" spending bills -- extra cash from Congress, earmarked for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, that's supposed to be provided on an emergency basis.Except now, the emergencies are routine. Every year, the Army busts through its approximately $160 billion budget. Every year, the service asks for more money -- to cover war costs, sure. But also to pay for stuff like the Joint Network Node, a kind of wi-fi hotspot for the battlefield. And to reconfigure the Army into smaller brigades. It's a form of blackmail, more or less: give us our money, Congress. Or risk being nailed as "anti-soldier.""I always tell people, thank God for the supplemental. We would not be able to do anything... without them," Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac told an Association of the United States Army conference in 2004. "If those dont happen, were in a world of hurt."This year is no different. Hence Cody's plea for belt-tightening. But wouldn't it be better -- and smarter, and more honest -- to be upfront about all these costs, instead of blackmailing the Hill into action?

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