Sen. John McCain has worsened the Pentagon's cash flow problems by announcing he will no longer approve reprogramming requests that shift money between accounts.
Other than for emergencies, McCain he will not support Pentagon requests to move money until he receives a detailed report on money transfers over the last two years.
As ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has the power to singlehandedly block reprogramming requests because he is one of eight people who must sign off on the transfers. The chairmen and ranking minority party members of the House and Senate armed services committees and the defense appropriations subcommittees all must approve requests to shift money between accounts.
McCain notified Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of his decision in a March 9 letter that was made public on Tuesday. "I will not support any further reprogramming requests for new, unauthorized programs except for emergency requirements," McCain wrote.
Reprogramming is an administrative process created to allow flexibility in moving money between budget accounts as needs change during the year. This practice has been especially helpful to the Army to cover shortfalls in recent years.
Last year, Congress approved between $12 billion and $15 billion in transfers, McCain said. This year, just two months after the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, the Defense Department has sent seven transfer requests to Congress totaling more than $850 million, he said.
Reprogramming is used throughout defense programs, covering unexpected costs for personnel, maintenance or weapons programs. The practice is controversial because the military is essentially asking for permission to alter spending allocations made by Congress.