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/ January 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has begun its hearing to consider William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense; Robert Hale to be Pentagon comptroller; Michèle Flournoy to be under secretary of defense for policy; and Jeh Charles Johnson to be the Pentagon's general counsel.

While introductions are being made, we're perusing the written responses to advance policy questions from the committee.

A big question for the incoming Obama Pentagon team -- which during the presidential campaign was highly critical of the practice of funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with  supplemental appropriations -- is how they will handle war costs.

Robert Hale, nominee for the comptroller job, in his prepared responses says:

If confirmed, I would hope to work with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to try to move away from supplementals. The feasibility of moving away from supplementals depends on the budget year.
* For FY 2009, DoD needs a supplemental, because the base budget has been enacted.
* For FY 2010, with limited time available for submission of a base budget request, and with continuing uncertainty about changing war requirements, the President may decide he will need to have a supplemental.
 * In later budgets, we should be better able to minimize dependence on supplementals.
* Regardless of the year, we should avoid including predictable costs in supplemental requests.

Can supps be fully integrated into base budgets, the committee asks?

*  Full elimination of supplementals would require substantial reduction in the uncertainties associated with wartime operations. However, the negative aspects of supplementals can be minimized by ensuring DoD scrutiny of supplemental requests similar to that afforded the base budget (a policy endorsed by the President-elect) and by providing Congress with early information regarding supplemental requests.
The committee notes that in "recent years the department has had to prepare a base budget and two separate supplemental funding requests each year.
Do you believe the Comptroller organization has the personnel and other resources needed to adequately manage this increased workload?"
* I am concerned about the adequacy of resources in the Comptroller organization to manage the increased workload associated with wartime operations.
• If confirmed, I will carefully review the staffing and organization and recommend any changes that I believe are required.

-- Jason Sherman