Another Continuing Resolution? The enemy is us

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Military personal and Capitol Hill Police department stage outside the US Capitol on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The National Defense Authorization Act may earmark billions for different military programs, but it doesn’t mean much unless the government is funded. In the op-ed below, former Pentagon comptroller Elaine McCusker lays out the damage yet another Continuing Resolution could do, and where the pain would be felt most acutely.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy identified China as “the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security,” a statement supported by the Defense Department’s annual China Military Power Report, released last month.

Confronting such challenges to the nation requires important work to advance US military competitiveness, support the readiness of the force, and protect the nation’s security. This work takes time and money — time and money that is being lost every day under a continuing resolution (CR), which with the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 once again extended last year’s funding and priorities into the next year. That’s money that can’t be recovered. That’s time that can’t be bought back.

As congressional and administration leaders meet to negotiate an agreement on an omnibus appropriations bill before adjourning this month, the threat of additional and long-term CRs looms, as do unacceptable consequences for our military, including delays for critical, high-profile programs from destroyers to the recently unveiled B-21 bomber.

Congress has until December 16, when the current CR expires, to demonstrate it understands the daily and accumulating damage to national security caused by such temporary funding measures, and that it is willing to act to stop it.

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The Secretary of Defense recently sent a letter to Congress conveying great concern over the “significant harm” being done to the U.S. military and national security as political shenanigans again take precedence over the fundamental congressional constitutional duty to enact annual appropriations measures on time.

While several members of Congress recently participated in the annual Reagan National Defense Forum to discuss important strategic concerns such as cyber age challenges, how to restore a resilient industrial base, Russian aggression and the future of NATO, great power conflict and deterrence, cooperation with allies and partners, how to encourage the innovation ecosystem and competition, and the impact of economic disruptors on defense resourcing, none of it matters without assured funding.

Strategies, plans, progress and solutions in any of these important areas will mean nothing without budget agreements and enactment of the annual appropriations and defense policy bills to support them.

Not only is CR funding woefully insufficient, the money is also in the wrong accounts. Congress has already acknowledged through pending authorization and appropriations bills that the Biden defense budget request is $45 billion below what is necessary. Added to that overall budget shortfall, the military personnel accounts — which pay the force — would be close to $7 billion short under a long term CR. The Operation and Maintenance accounts — which maintain readiness, pay the civilian force, support current operations and run military bases — would be almost $14 billion below even the minimal requirements supported in the budget request. The Pentagon would not be able to fund the planned military and civilian pay raises, which are already short of what would be needed to counter the actual impacts of inflation.

On the other hand, the Military Construction accounts — which fund family housing, shipyards and facilities that support the nation’s nuclear program — would have $3 billion more than requested, yet would not be able to use the funds due to CR restrictions that prohibit doing anything new.

From a strategic perspective, a long-term CR would halt procurement of the B-21 Raider and prohibit the start of the new multi-year procurement contracts for the Arleigh Burke class ships (DDG 51).

In short, a long-term CR would inhibit 192 new projects, 97 new construction and housing projects and 49 procurement rate increases.

For example, the CR would limit planned production increases for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), and Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER). It would degrade hypersonic weapons development.

These high-end weapons systems should sound familiar. They are critical to deterring and defeating near-peer adversaries.

A longer CR could also impede the replacement of munitions and other critical support provided to Ukraine if no additional supplemental funds are available to augment the base budget.

In addition to these national security consequences to defense programs and personnel under CRs, negative impacts are felt by every community, business, and partner that engages with, or supports, the Defense Department.

The ongoing and looming impacts of additional CRs are significant and clear. What remains unclear is if all members of Congress — not just those in leadership positions or on relevant committees — will take it on as their personal and professional responsibility to do what’s right for the nation and those who protect it.

All members must demand and support the completion of a budget agreement and vote to enact annual appropriations.

As our country faces growing strategic challenges, we should not ring in yet another new year under disgraceful and damaging temporary funding measures. Now is not the time to continue political blame-spamming or duty-shirking as has happened for the last 13 years. Citizens across the nation need Congress to do its duty. Now.

Elaine McCusker is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is a former Acting Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).





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