Despite both Congress and the Senate passing their own versions of a new defense budget, one which calls for the establishment of a new space-based branch of the military and another that calls for an even larger influx of funding than President Trump requested, the Department of Defense officially began yet another fiscal year without an approved budget this week.
Last month, Senate lawmakers passed a bill that would infuse the Defense Department with a much-needed $700 billion budget for fiscal year 2018, which began on October 1st. The measure saw bipartisan support, passing with a respectable 89-8 vote, and drew headlines as some criticized the significant increase to a defense budget they argue has been bloated for years. Lost amid the coverage and debate, however, was the necessity for that budget to be reconciled with the House’s own version, which promised a more modest funding increase, as well as organizational changes like the aforementioned Space Corps.
So as September rolled over into October, the U.S. military once again found itself operating under “continuing resolution” funding, which is effectively a budgetary stop-gap between a government shutdown and an actual ratified budget.
“The department needs a sufficient and predictable budget,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said during a Pentagon news conference on Thursday. “This week marked the ninth consecutive fiscal year the department has operated under a continuing resolution.” White went on to clarify that over the past 10 years, the Pentagon has been intermittently forced to conduct operations without funding for more than a thousand days. That means that for a collective three years of the past ten that this country has been at war, the Defense Department has been forced to maintain operations without consistent funding.
James Mattis has been on record repeatedly, urging law makers to provide solid, reliable financing to our nation’s military, to include an end to the sequestration put into place during the Obama administration, which are a series of automatic spending cuts the military has been forced to undergo while maintaining continuous combat operations in multiple theaters.
We need bipartisan support for this budget request. In the past, by failing to pass a budget on time or eliminate the threat of sequestration, Congress sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress in June, as he was already pushing to avoid the situation the Pentagon now finds itself in. “Continuing resolutions coupled with sequestration blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk. Despite the tremendous efforts of this committee, Congress as a whole has met the present challenge with lassitude, not leadership.”
These funding limitations have been at the forefront of concerns for military leaders for years, but have only recently been getting attention from the majority of the public after a recent rash of incidents started calling American military training and maintenance into question. Marine Corps aircraft, including a number of MV-22 Ospreys and one C-130, have been crashing with enough frequency that the Commandant ordered a branch wide operational pause. Multiple high-profile collisions between Navy ships and commercial vessels in the Pacific have resulted in command shake ups from the commanders of ships all the way to the 7th Fleet’s commander. These incidents, among many others, have not only been embarrassing on the international stage, but have cost the U.S. military a number of lives.
Under a continuing resolution budgetary situation, new programs, including those intended to improve maintenance and training, cannot begin, and millions more is wasted as leaders are forced to stop planning for the future, as there’s no certainty as to when funding could arrive. Delays in budget approval doesn’t just mean no money today, it means having to wait until you know when and how much you may receive in order to begin planning at all.
According to James Mattis, “For all the heartache caused by the loss of our troops during these wars, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration.”
Pentagon spokesman Dana White ended her briefing by calling on lawmakers to ensure the budget is established before the continuing resolution expires; “So again, we want the Congress to be good stewards of the American people’s dollars and ensure we get a full FY ’18 budget by December 8th.”
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense