F/A-18E Super Hornet  USS Gerald R. Ford Eastern Mediterranean Sea
© Jennifer Newsome / US NAVY / AFPAn F/A-18E Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, October 12, 2023.
The US military has to make do with a stopgap budget that freezes defense funding at the previous year's levels

The Pentagon is scrambling to find money to pay for a military buildup in the Middle East amid the Hamas-Israel conflict due to gridlock in the US Congress, which has so far been unable to approve full defense funding, Politico reported on Tuesday.

The US Department of Defense, along with many other federal agencies, is now operating under a stopgap funding bill which was signed by US President Joe Biden earlier this month to avert a potential government shutdown. The measure, which did not satisfy Biden's request for additional money for Israel and Ukraine, also freezes other types of defense spending at the previous year's levels.

Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood told Politico that since no one planned for a massive redeployment of US forces to the Middle East after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the military "had to pull money from existing operations and maintenance accounts." This means less funding for exercises and deployments that had already been planned.

"We're taking it out of hide," the spokesman said.

Since the start of the Middle East crisis, the US has deployed two aircraft carriers with escorts, additional missile and air defense systems, more than 1,000 troops, and an Ohio-class nuclear-powered missile submarine to the region.

The military buildup came as the US declared unequivocal support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinian armed group Hamas, as well as fears that hostilities could lead to a major regional escalation involving Iran and Islamist organizations with ties to Tehran.

US defense officials had previously sounded the alarm about the congressional stalemate, warning that a lack of funding could harm not only shipbuilding and procurement programs, but the industrial base itself.

Speaking to Defense News, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Radha Plumb did not rule out the possibility of an "additive domino effect of delays," noting that suppliers could be especially hard-hit by this.

Meanwhile, Under Secretary of Defense Bill LaPlante warned of potential layoffs in contractor companies due to the lack of Pentagon funding.

According to Politico, if US lawmakers are unable to pass a full spending bill by spring, the Pentagon and other federal departments will have to cut their overall expenses by 1%.