By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The Army's largest post can expect a tight garrison budget through the fiscal year, while grappling with with spiraling war costs and a costly reorganization effort, a garrison command spokesman said.
"We can expect funding to be very tight for the foreseeable future and garrison commanders will be challenged to manage the funding they receive," said Ned Christensen, spokesman for the Army's Installation Management Agency in Washington.
"The Army is at war and is simultaneously carrying out the most extensive transformation since the 1930s," he said in an e-mail exchange. "So, installation management might require some modification of services for the short term, but we will continue to provide critical services for our soldiers, their families, and our work force."
Fort Hood hit a speed bump in its garrison operations last month as funds ran out to pay bills. Christensen said the problem was a "cash-flow" problem and had been fixed.
At the heart of the problem has been the decision by the White House to pay for the Iraq war through supplemental funding bills. That has forced the Pentagon to channel existing money, such as garrison funds, to the war effort until each supplemental measure is passed in Congress.
The latest bill, a $92.2 billion request by President Bush that also includes money for hurricane rebuilding on the Gulf Coast, is facing a showdown in Congress after senators on May 4 passed a measure that tacked on an extra $14 billion in projects.
Bush has threatened to veto any bill that exceeds his request. House leaders also condemned the Senate version as "dead on arrival," as soon as it passed, promising to take a hard line during talks with the Senate.
"It is my hope that the House and Senate will resolve supplemental differences in the coming days so the military can receive the funds they need," said Fort Hood's congressman, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in an e-mailed statement about the issue.
Until a deal can be reached, Christensen said Fort Hood's $241 million garrison budget target for the fiscal year to pay for operations and facilities maintenance will be allocated on a monthly basis.
"We will support our senior mission commanders to the greatest extent our funding allows," Christensen said.
The budget uncertainty also will not affect Fort Hood's ability to recover from damages caused by severe weather this spring or during the approaching hurricane season, if it occurs, Christensen said.
"In the event buildings are damaged by severe weather or other catastrophe, IMA maintains a storm damage reserve fund," Christensen said.
"If damage should exceed the reserve fund, if Congress doesn't appropriate relief funds, IMA must find the funding or close or demolish the facility," Christensen said.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com