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Pentagon Struggles to Finance Middle East Buildup Amid Congressional Dysfunction

Since the recent terrorist attacks on Israel, the Defense Department has taken action to prevent the conflict from escalating into a regional war. This includes deploying an additional aircraft carrier strike group, air defenses, fighter jets, and hundreds of troops to the Middle East.

However, due to Congressional dysfunction, the Pentagon is facing a lack of funding to support this buildup. Currently, the military, like the rest of the federal government, is operating under a temporary funding measure that freezes spending at the previous year’s levels.

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As a result, the Pentagon has had to redirect funds from existing operations and maintenance accounts to finance the Middle East troop movements. This means that there will be less money available for training, exercises, and deployments that were already planned for the year. Some contractual payments may also experience delays.

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DOD spokesperson Chris Sherwood explained, “Current events have revised some of the operational assumptions used to develop the FY 2024 President’s Budget request. Specifically, neither the base budget request nor the FY 2024 supplemental request included funding for U.S. operations related to Israel…We’re taking it out of hide.”

The buildup in the Middle East has forced the military departments and U.S. Central Command to reassess current and future operations based on the evolving conflict. However, the total cost of U.S. support for Israel has yet to be determined.

The Pentagon has repeatedly warned about the detrimental effects of temporary funding measures on military readiness. Operating under a stopgap measure limits the department’s ability to initiate new programs or exceed the previous year’s spending levels.

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Credit: DepositPhotos

This burden is particularly significant now, as the Pentagon is supporting two simultaneous wars in Ukraine and Israel. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks highlighted the significant consequences of the stopgap measure, estimating a $35 billion cut to the department’s budget.

She emphasized the need for trust between the Pentagon and Congress, stating, “But the truth of the matter is, trust is a two-way street, and we are really being challenged to trust that our partners in Congress can get done what they need to do for us to achieve those ends.” 

The continuing resolution is set to expire on Feb. 2, at which point it will be up to lawmakers to pass a full-year spending bill. However, if the disagreements persist through April, the Pentagon and other federal agencies will face a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut.

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