Lawmakers push for defense funds as federal budget battle drags on
Published: March 10, 2011
WASHINGTON – With the federal budget set to run out next week, yesterday’s unsuccessful budget votes in the Senate have once again ramped up concern over the possibility of a government shutdown. But defense advocates are also increasingly worried about funding shortfalls in military accounts in coming months and the acquisition headaches that could cause if the spending issues aren’t settled soon.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged his colleagues to pass a full-year appropriations bill for the military even if the rest of the federal budget cannot be reconciled in the next few days. In a statement, he said it would be irresponsible for Congress to “continue to fund the Department of Defense by passing two week-by-two week continuing resolutions while we are fighting two wars.”
During a budget hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month, leaders on both sides of the aisle in the House Armed Services Committee promised to push for a solution to the military money issue.
Pentagon officials are currently working off a $526 billion budget based on fiscal 2010 levels, about $22 billion less than they had requested for this fiscal year. Gates has said the department needs to get at least $14 billion of that shortfall to keep equipment purchases and construction projects on schedule, and avoid expensive catch-up costs related to delays.
Defense leaders have already shifted around some funds to keep high-priority programs like unmanned aerial vehicle purchases and unit reset costs solvent. But earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that those moves are already creating financial problems through the department, and a full-year defense appropriations measure is desperately needed.
A government shutdown would have limited effects on military operations, but Lynn said that up to half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees would be furloughed and the rest would work without pay if a shutdown occurs.