DoD requesting large fund transfer after uncertain year caused by pandemic

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The Defense Department is lobbying Congress for permission to move $4.3 billion of previously appropriated money into new accounts to pay for emergency COVID-19 requirements and fill in readiness and pay needs.

The request comes after the military spent more than expected on the southwest border and for coronavirus relief and protection, according to documents obtained by Federal News Network and signed by DoD Comptroller Michael McCord on June 16.

About half of the money would go to the Air Force. Nearly a billion dollars of the funds proposed for the Air Force would go to operations and maintenance. For example, $128 million would be used for the safe movement of personnel to support COVID-19 requirements. Those funds would accommodate social distancing and pay for increased cleaning of facilities. About $200 million would go toward personnel costs for childcare, youth programs, and other moral, welfare and recreation activities through 2021.

“Additional funding is required to avoid the furlough or reductions of hours of up to 19,000 employees throughout the DoD,” the document reads. “Many of the employees are family members of our service members serving around the world and their paychecks are essential to our military families’ financial security. The accounts continue to be impacted by lowered demand, COVID-19 closures, reduced operating hours or other social-distancing measures that suppress revenue-generating activities.”

All of the services want to fund new research or procurement programs with the money. The Army wants to move about $66.5 million to fulfill a Defense secretary-directed program to centralize R&D efforts around countering small drone threats.

The Navy is requesting $41 million to pay for support cost increases on the Moored Training Ship 711, which is undergoing conversion at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. The moored seacraft are nuclear submarines that are used to train future nuclear personnel.

“Cost increases resulted from the conversion work taking longer than expected due to labor shortages associated with COVID-19, expected learning cost avoidance from the previous conversion of Moored Training Ship 701 not occurring, unplanned work executed during the conversion due to poorer than expected material conditions for the fleet unit entering a conversion availability,” the document reads.

The Space Force is asking for $5 million for Wideband Gapfiller Satellites for 2024 and the Air Force is hoping to get $35 million to fund microelectronics supplies.

Other requests allow the military to fund its regular duties after spending money on other missions. The Army, in one case, is asking for $147 million to restore funding used for the DoD southwest border support mission.

“The Army requires this funding to meet training and unit readiness requirements. The border support mission costs include, but are not limited to, travel, transportation, supplies, aviation support, life sustainment support and equipment,” the document reads. “Without restored funding, there will be direct impacts to home station, decisive action training and operational requirements. The restored funds will ensure training for Army formations to achieve a sustainable readiness level. Funding for the soldier support and sustainment cost in 2021 cannot be delayed to 2022, as the cost supports the 2021 missions.”

The Navy said it needs about $117 million to pay for mobilizing Navy Reserve Surge Maintenance reservists to augment lost days at four public shipyards to keep ship maintenance on schedule during the pandemic.

For DoD as a whole, the department is requesting more than $650 million dollars for the Defense Health Program for ongoing COVID response, which includes personal protective equipment, vaccine distribution and medical supplies.

About $20 million will be used to renovate the White House Situation Room with updated security and technology. The last renovation was in 2006.

To pay for the reprogramming, DoD is sprinkling cuts and savings throughout the services and the Pentagon.

The Army is taking $22 million from its Holistic Health and Fitness program, for example. Other funds are due to production delays with contractors on certain programs, excess ammunition and delays in permanent changes of station.

The Navy is offering up $1 billion of its funds, some of which come from savings in aircraft procurement, and the cancellation of things like the Virginia class submarine acoustic superiority program.

The Air Force is offering to move about $2 billion. Some of those funds come from minor construction deferrals, changes in aircraft procurement and changes in strategy for buying spare parts.

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