Feed and Forage Act

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The Feed and Forage Act of 1861 is legislation passed by the United States Congress that allows the Military Departments to incur obligations in excess of available appropriations for clothing, subsistence, fuel, quarters, transportation and medical supplies. This provision is codified in Section 3732 of the Revised Statutes (41 U.S.C. § 11). It also authorizes incurring deficiencies for costs of additional members of the Armed Forces on active duty-beyond the number for which funds are currently provided in DoD appropriations (Title 10 U.S.C.).

This authority requires Congressional notification and does not permit actual expenditures until Congress provides an appropriation of the required funds.


The act has been amended over time and now reads in part:

"No contract or purchase on behalf of the United States shall be made, unless the same is authorized by law or is under an appropriation adequate to its fulfillment, except in the Department of Defense .... for clothing, subsistence, forage, fuel, quarters, transportation, or medical and hospital supplies, which, however, shall not exceed the necessities of the current year..."[1]

It has been invoked on a number of occasions to deal with emergencies.


There is a controversy over whether, and the extent to which, the Act lets a President fund military operations for which Congress has not appropriated funds.

In November 2006, member of Congress and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich wrote that the President could cite the Act to continue the Iraq War even if Congress withheld funds. [3] In May 2007, the National Journal published an article echoing this argument. [4]

In response, OmbWatch.org published "Exploring the Scope of the Feed and Forage Act of 1861"[5] suggesting a more limited interpretation: "... interpreting the Feed and Forage Act broadly probably gives great flexibility to Department of Defense officials to obtain anything they deem necessary, so long as it is for a short-term need that occurred in an emergency, could not be feasibly obtained through normal procedures, and was used in the fiscal year in which it was obtained. This interpretation would give Congress and the president much more, if not unlimited, time to negotiate a compromise..."[5]

Others [1] have argued that the Act cannot allow the President to continue military operations where Congress has used its Power of the purse to end them. It is argued that the intent of the Framers was that "the whole power of raising armies was lodged in the LEGISLATURE, not in the EXECUTIVE" [6] The Department of Defense's Financial Management Regulations notes that : "The Department shall limit its use of the authority in 41 U.S.C 11 to emergency circumstances." [5]

Name Confusion[edit]

Many sources refer to a "Food and Forage Act"[2] but the name used by the U.S. Government is "Feed and Forage Act".[2][5]


  1. ^ "41 USC Chapter 1 Section 11". Cornell University U.S. Code Collection. Retrieved September 30, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE INVOKES FEED AND FORAGE ACT". United States Department of Defense. 2001-09-11. Retrieved September 30, 2007. 
  3. ^ Dennis Kucinich (2006-11-30). "There Is Only One Way To End The Iraq War". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 30, 2007. 
  4. ^ Stan Collender (2007-05-08). "The Truth About The Iraq Supplemental". National Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c d Stan Collender (2007-05-22). "Exploring the Scope of the Feed and Forage Act of 1861" (PDF). OMBWatch.org. Retrieved September 30, 2007. 
  6. ^ Alexander Hamilton. "Federalist No. 24". Yale Law School. Retrieved September 30, 2007.