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Because Congress has yet to pass a supplemental funding bill, the Defense Department must start taking measures to ensure uninterrupted war operations, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said July 14.

If Congress doesn't act on the fiscal 2010 request for supplemental war funding, Defense Department employees may not get paid, Morrell said during a news conference.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is disappointed that Congress did not pass the supplemental spending bill before its Fourth of July break, Morrell told reporters.

"He's very concerned about the predicament that puts us in," he said. "And in order to assure that war operations are not interrupted, the services will now have to begin cash-flowing operating costs for war activities using their base budgets."

This means that the services will begin borrowing money from fourth-quarter accounts to pay for current obligations, but even that won't be enough, he added.

"We project that certain Army and Marine Corps accounts will run dry in August," Morrell said. "So we urgently need Congress to pass the supplemental [funding bill] before members leave town for the next break in August."

In the meantime, he added, the department is obligated to begin planning what to do if Congress does not pass the spending measure. "Needless to say, all of this is extraordinarily disruptive to the department," he said.

This is not the first time this has happened, Morrell said. "While we have faced this circumstance in years past, the situation we find ourselves in this year is much more difficult, because it comes so late in the fiscal year," he said.

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

"The department has a supreme obligation to protect this nation and support the hundreds of thousands of personnel that are deployed in harm's way," Morrell said. "We will take every step possible to fulfill these obligations in the months ahead until this matter is settled in Washington.

"It may involve asking a lot of hard-working people in this department to report to duty without an ability to pay them, or other extreme measures we would rather avoid. But we will get the job done, including in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever else we operate around the world."

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