Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Funding Shortfall faces Department of Defense

The Continuing Resolution (CR) process is impacting the Department of Defense, delaying training, procurement, and maintenance. ROA, along with other military and veteran organizations, has signed letters asking both the House and Senate Appropriations committees to pass a defense appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 to provide funding stability until October 1.

Unable to come to a funding agreement for the balance of the year, Congress is looking to do short extensions. The current  two-week CR runs out March 18, with the House and Senate in disagreement as to funding levels. Key to the debate are reductions in FY-2011 spending, with the Senate Democrats proposing a $6.5 billion reduction for the balance of the year, while the House Republicans would like to seek a $57 billion reduction. In test votes in the Senate, both proposals failed to pass. 

With an apparent congressional impasse for the near future, no long-term funding is expected, and a series of two-week extensions will hurt the armed forces. The Hill newspaper reports those extensions will affect or have already caused the following:

-Delay in awarding of contracts for planned work on new submarines and destroyers;
-Army letting go 300 workers at maintenance facilities;
-Army shutting down work on the Stryker mobile gun system and delaying purchase of Chinook helicopters;
-Air Force cutting flying hours by 10 percent and reducing purchases of Reaper unmanned aircraft;
-Air Force being unable to retire 22 C-5As that are in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.

"The readiness of our forces is beginning to be threatened as flying hours and steaming days are reduced, exercises and training events are canceled, equipment is foregoing much-needed maintenance," said Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Appropriations Committee chairman at a hearing in early March.

"Secretary [of Defense] Gates, Admiral Mullen, and other military leaders have repeatedly and clearly warned us about the dangers of failing to pass a full-year defense funding bill,” warned Sen. Susan Collins (R-Main) on the Senate floor following the hearing.  “It is hurting our national security and harming our readiness… In no time in recent memory has Congress failed to pass a Defense Appropriations bill.”

A direct affect on the Reserve Component is that orders will not be cut for periods outside of the continuing resolution  period.  The Air Force Reserve is already disapproving any requests for Annual Tour (AT), Active Duty For Training (ADT), Active Duty for Special Works (ADSW) and unit-funded School tours that start after the end dates for existing continuing resolutions. Improvements and maintenance to Reserve training facilities and National Guard Armories could also be postponed.

Even with authorization to spend at last year’s levels, DoD is being impacted. Even if a continuing resolutions is passed for the balance of the year keeping spending at 2010 levels, this is $23 billion less than the President’s budget. Secretary Gates has warned that the military will not be able to meet its responsibilities if Congress sticks with the CR funding level of $526 billion, and instead needs a full defense appropriation of $549 billion.

The challenge of a tightening budget will have an effect on defense budgets which will no longer grow, but will begin to recede. While the 2012 presidential budget is for $553, touted as a $22 billion increase over FY-2010, $73 billion was shifted from the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funds to the base budget, which is a de facto cut of $51 billion. One way or another, the Pentagon will have to learn to fulfill its missions with fewer dollars.

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