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Battle for
BRAC budget

Alabama's congressional delegation hopes supplemental will correct shortfall in funds

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Alabama's congressional delegation vowed Tuesday to fight a budget cut that could delay the Base Realignment and Closure plan that would boost Redstone Arsenal and their districts.

U.S. Reps. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, and Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, voted against a continuing resolution Congress passed last week that funds the government for the remainder of fiscal 2007.

The resolution passed the House and now goes to the Senate.

The resolution provides $2.5 billion for BRAC activities, $3.1 billion short of the fiscal 2007 funding request. The cuts come as debate rages over funding the Iraq war.

Aderholt and Cramer said they would support efforts to add additional BRAC funding to a war supplemental budget request submitted Monday to Congress.

"My office has been in contact with Redstone and has been assured that this funding shortfall will not have an immediate impact on BRAC activities planned for the 2007 calendar year," Aderholt said.

Cramer said he received guarantees from his colleagues and the House leadership that BRAC funding will be improved in the supplemental appropriations bill.

"There is no move to reverse the decisions by the BRAC commission, and, as we begin working on the supplemental and the 2008 fiscal year budget, I will continue to fight to ensure proper funding for BRAC," Cramer said.

The state's delegation may have support from a Bush administration official.

In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, questioned Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the proposed cuts.

According to transcripts of the hearing, Gates said part of the cut is $300 million for housing allowances, which, Sessions said, cuts funding for troops returning from Europe, South Korea and other foreign bases.

Gates said he discussed the shortfall with Senate leaders, and the leadership expressed a willingness to correct the problem. He raised the possibility of emergency supplemental funding.

"There is a huge impact, frankly, on us," Gates said. "I think there's a real understanding of the magnitude of the problem and a willingness to consider some alternatives. This is really an issue for the Senate, for the Congress, to decide. But, clearly, that $3.1 billion is very important to our troops and to us."

Cornyn said the resolution that passed the House would likely go to the Senate floor with no opportunity for amendment and its consideration would be an up-or-down vote.

But he said the problem with a supplemental is there will be no budget offset and, "in essence, that Congress will get to spend that $3.1 billion on other things and not" on BRAC construction as originally intended.

According to Redstone Arsenal estimates, BRAC-related building and moving costs will be about $651 million, with $408 million for construction and $243 million for relocation expenses of nearly 4,600 military employees during the next four years.

Despite the possible delays, John Seymour, president and chief executive of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said recruitment efforts will continue as planned. The chamber is planning an April trip to Northern Virginia.

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