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Army's top officer sees budget shortfall

WASHINGTON -- The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders in August after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by General Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, current and former Pentagon officials said.

Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The omission followed a series of cuts in the service's funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months.

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, or nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion .

Most funding for the fighting in Iraq comes from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement, and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems.

About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among various military branches and government agencies.

But in recent budget negotiations, Army officials argued that the service's expanding global role in the US-declared war on terrorism -- outlined in new strategic plans issued earlier this year -- as well as fast-growing personnel and equipment costs tied to the Iraq war have put intense pressure on its normal budget.

The Army, with an active-duty force of 504,000, has been stretched by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About 400,000 soldiers have completed at least one tour of combat duty, with more than a third of those deployed twice.

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