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Pentagon insists delayed war funding could hurt military

  • Story Highlights
  • Defense secretary: Pentagon needs additional war funding by mid-February
  • $50 billion bill sets goal of troop withdrawal from Iraq by December 15, 2008
  • White House says bill is "political posturing" and likely to be vetoed
  • Democrats insist bill is the only one they will vote on by the end of the year
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the Pentagon would not be able to carry on normal operations by mid-February without additional war funding, creating "real consequences for this department and for our men and women in uniform."

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Defense Secretary Gates says he might would have to lay off some Defense workers.

But Democratic congressional leadership again declared that no additional funds will be available this year unless the president accepts restrictions that additional funds be used to withdraw troops from Iraq.

If additional war funding is not approved by Congress "the military would cease operations at all Army bases by mid-February of next year," Gates told reporters. Base closures could lead to the layoff of about 100,000 government employees and as many contractors, he said.

"Similar actions would follow for the Marine Corps about a month later," said Gates. Video Watch Gates say the funding is needed soon »

A bill providing an additional $50 billion in war funding that includes a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is currently moving through Congress.

It is unlikely, however, the bill will ever become law. President Bush objects to the restrictions contained in the bill, the White House said, and would likely veto the bill if it passes Congress. In May, Bush vetoed a similar measure that required a troop withdrawal.

Wednesday evening the House approved the war-funding bill by a 218-203 vote, which was largely along party lines.

The bill requires the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 30 days of passage, with a goal of having American combat troops out of Iraq by December 15, 2008.

Bush already has announced plans to withdraw most of the 30,000 additional troops he dispatched in January in an effort to secure Baghdad and its surrounding provinces, leaving about 140,000 American troops in Iraq.

Pentagon and U.S. military sources said the reductions would already have been necessary in order to provide soldiers with their promised time off back home.

The $50 billion "bridge fund" is about a quarter of the nearly $200 billion the Bush administration has requested to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2008.

Despite reports that additional funds will be needed relatively soon, the Democratic leadership insisted Thursday that the current bill is the only one they will vote on before the end of the year.

"We're not going to back off this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. "We're going to continue to push forward on this most important issue."

"The president is no longer -- he never was entitled -- but he's damn sure not entitled now to having this money given to him just with a blank check."

Reid Thursday said the Senate would vote on the bill Friday morning.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday said the Congress must insist that the president change his war strategy, since the current "surge" strategy, the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq to improve security, was not working.

Pelosi pointed to a report in Thursday's Washington Post that said military commanders in Iraq believe the ineffectiveness of the current Iraq government is more of a danger to their mission than the insurgency they are fighting.

"The purpose of the surge was to create a secure environment in which the Iraqi government would have the opportunity to make the political change to end ... the violence there," Pelosi said. "They have not taken advantage of that opportunity. And as the general said in the article this morning, that window may be closing for them to do so."

The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate said if the president vetoes this bill, the administration will have to divert money from elsewhere in the Pentagon's $470 billion budget to keep the war going.

Gates, however, insisted the additional funds are needed.

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"With the passage of the Defense Appropriations Act, there is a misperception that this department can continue funding our troops in the field for an indefinite period of time, through accounting maneuvers, that we can shuffle money around the department." Gates said.

"The high degree of uncertainty on funding for the war is immensely complicating this task and will have many real consequences for this department and for our men and women in uniform," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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