Pentagon Threatens Layoffs Over Stalled Iraq Money

Whenever the Iraq funding discussion gets sticky, the Pentagon warns of layoffs of civilian military employees, and this round of debate is no different.

So with a Memorial Day deadline looming, the Pentagon came through this week, in a letter to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, warning that the Army was running out of money for Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon letter essentially says the military would have to rob Peter to pay Paul and furlough civilian employees not involved in the war effort.

The layoff warning is similar to a threat last year when Congress was debating the last major Iraq funding bill. There were no layoffs, and the Democratic Congress eventually caved in on troop withdrawal timetables and gave the Pentagon the war money with no strings attached. That is likely to happen again in the coming month, and layoffs will be averted.

Here's a copy of the letter from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England -- note the creative phrase "in extremis" as it applies to Pentagon war funding. The concerns raised by England are similar to comments made by Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff for the Army, in April.

"Congressional action on the balance of the [funding] request prior to the end of May will provide funds in time to prevent any disruption in operations or programs," Cody said before the House Armed Services Committee on April 9.

The House and Senate, despite the recent meltdowns in both chambers over process and procedure, are on track to approve a supplemental spending bill in the coming weeks. Whether it will get done before Memorial Day is uncertain, but as the holiday approaches, expect to hear more Capitol Hill Republicans railing about Democrats causing layoffs at the Pentagon.

A House Democratic aide said the money will come through for the troops and layoffs will be unnecessary.

"Congress will get its work done, as it always has," the aide said.