Elections could delay timely DOD appropriations

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ? Whether Congress will pass a Defense appropriations bill this year is still unclear, but what is certain is a transition at the department will take place in a matter of months when a new president is elected and assumes office, said Dean Popps, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

"Hopefully we will see a Defense appropriations bill before too long," Popps said at the Association of the United States Army Winter Symposium and Exposition. "I say hopefully because part of the nightmare for us would be for Congress to slip [the appropriation], and to keep slipping it; and have us operating at the end of the year with a continuing appropriation."

Some political observers think Congress will pass an appropriation bill soon so it can then focus on the fall elections. Others believe the bill could get mired down by discussion about the war, leading to a continuing resolution.

"If you look at the congressional calendar, you'll see that Gen. Petraeus will be before Congress the beginning of April giving his six-month report on the surge," Popps said. "I predict a hubbub of activity for a two-week period when that occurs."

The activity around the Petraeus report could focus attention away from passing a bill. Whatever happens, both DOD and its partners need to focus on its missions, the most important being the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the meantime the military will have to continue to do its business under pressure, he said.

Another task the Army faces is preparing for the transition to a new commander-in-chief, he said.

"Whether that president is a Republican or a Democrat is immaterial," Popps said. "The question is we are a nation at war and this handoff has to be accomplished properly."

One priority for the Army is to continuing working on the Future Combat Systems program. Initiatives launched by military's current leadership helped redirect focus on the program.

"It elevated to a level of national debate," Popps. "Not about the program, but about the word 'modernization.'"

A metaphor Popps uses to brief elected officials about the program is helping illustrate its importance. A consumer buying a new sport utility vehicle expects features, including DVD players, in-dash Global Positioning System, multiple airbags and computers that monitor the vehicle's parts.

And the people driving SUVs often have a personal cell phone and a business BlackBerry. So both the vehicle and drivers are connected to networks for a simple trip to the grocery store.

FCS promises to give soldiers that same kind of connectivity or better, Popps said.

"Why would you want your soldiers in anything less than a system like that?" he said. "That alone makes the case for why we must stand behind FCS, because FCS is that SUV."

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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