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Clinton, Gates Urge Supplemental Budget's Passage

Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2010 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged senators today to quickly approve a $37.5 billion supplemental budget request to fund ongoing operations.

The two Cabinet members testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee.

Clinton and Gates appearing together on Capitol Hill mirrored actions on the ground in the combat theater, where State Department and Defense Department personnel work side by side.

"Our joint testimony today reflects the close cooperation of our two departments and the importance of a properly funded and integrated civil-military approach to the challenges we face in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world," Gates said. "I would like to offer my strong support for the programs funded in the State portion of the supplemental request, without which our military efforts will not be successful."

The Defense Department needs an additional $33 billion this year and State is asking for another $4.5 billion in 2010. "Our request addresses urgent demands that will advance our efforts to bring stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and ensure a smooth transition to a civilian-led effort in Iraq," Clinton told the senators.

Gates noted he recently returned from Afghanistan, and he gave the panel a read-out of his visit. "Overall, I think there are grounds for guarded optimism as our campaign to roll back the Taliban gains momentum and the Afghan government shows an increasing willingness to take on responsibilities," the defense secretary said.

But the process will take time, and there will be many painful and tough days ahead, he added. "It may take several months to produce visible results, as most of the additional forces ordered by the president have not yet arrived in theater and begun operations," Gates said. U.S. force levels in Afghanistan are on track to hit 98,000 by the end of fiscal 2010.

Gates also tried to manage expectations about what security and stability will look like in Afghanistan – a country that has known nothing but war for more than 30 years. "For most Afghans, a roof over their heads, the opportunity for their children – both boys and girls – to attend school and the ability to provide for the basic needs of their families free from violence would be considered a pretty good life," he said. "The scale of the coalition's efforts and ambitions should reflect that reality."

The supplemental request includes $1 billion for conventional and all-terrain versions of mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles. The request also budgets $2.6 billion to strengthen the Afghan national security forces. Gates said that Afghans taking responsibility for their country's security is the exit strategy for the coalition, and that Afghan security forces are taking on greater roles.

The request asks for $1 billion to strengthen Iraqi security forces. Funds will be used this year to ensure the Iraqis are fully prepared to assume full responsibilities, Gates said.

In Haiti, the Defense Department continues to provide support in wake of a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. The urgency of the situation required the department to take funds from existing accounts with the understanding that the accounts would be replenished via supplemental funding. This totals $650 million.

Gates and Clinton asked the senators to approve the request quickly so no disruptions in funding will happen later in the fiscal year.

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