New Short-Term Spending Bill Would Continue to Hamper the Military

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

New Short-Term Spending Bill Would Continue to Hamper the Military

Jan 12th, 2018 2 min read
Frederico Bartels

Policy Analyst for defense budgeting

Frederico Bartels is a policy analyst for defense budgeting at The Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute.
These resolutions are specially damaging to how the Department of Defense operates and defends the nation. iStock

Lawmakers are discussing the possibility of passing yet another continuing resolution on Jan. 19 to keep the government from shutting down.

If another continuing resolution comes to fruition, it will be the fourth one since the fiscal year started back on Oct. 1. As of now, we have already passed more than one-quarter of the fiscal year, but the federal government has been unable to agree on appropriations allocation and has instead relied on temporary measures.

These resolutions are specially damaging to how the Department of Defense operates and defends the nation. This would come at a time when our forces are under considerable stress.

In recent years, our military has suffered substantial deterioration. As described by Heritage Foundation senior fellow Dakota Wood, “It’s too small for its workload, underfunded to repair and replace equipment that is rapidly wearing out, and ill-served by obsolescent infrastructure at its ports, bases, and airfields.”

Continuing resolutions come with a prohibition against the department starting new programs or changing the production quantity of ongoing programs. The department identified close to 75 weapons programs that suffer delays owing to the prohibition on new starts.

Furthermore, operating under a continuing resolution affects 40 programs owing to the inability to change production quantities.

As the Congressional Research Service points out, the Department of Defense “faces unique challenges operating under a [continuing resolution] while providing the military forces needed to deter war and defend the country.”

In order to address these problems, it is possible for the Defense Department to ask Congress to include specific language in the next continuing resolution—referred to as “anomalies”—to ameliorate these problems. Congress tends to prefer “clean” continuing resolutions, since anomalies start to encroach on legislative prerogatives or program oversight.

Thus, the best way to address these issues is through the appropriation of the defense budget. A defense budget based on the National Defense Authorization Act, passed with strong bipartisan support and signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 12, is the best basis for the defense budget.

This indicates that there is broad agreement that our military needs more resources and that the government is willing to authorize these resources.

The missing key is agreeing on actually allocating the resources that Congress thinks are necessary for our nation’s defense. The Budget Control Act caps are still in place and prevent lawmaker from spending what the National Defense Authorization Act prescribed.

Congress has been unable to overcome the current political discussions on the federal budget, and thus our nation’s defense and the U.S. military are left dangling while negotiations focus on extraneous issues.

As long as this indecision and continuing resolutions are the norm, Congress will continue to create uncertainties and prevent long-term planning.

Another continuing resolution would create further inefficienciesin the Department of Defense, ensuring that defense dollars will not go as far as they could.

Congress and the American people agree that we need to invest more in defense. It’s time to either pepper a new continuing resolution with all the defense anomalies required, or let the National Defense Authorization Act guide the department’s budget for 2018.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal