January 12 CR hearing
By Thomas Low - NDIA Junior Fellow
With the looming potential of large-scale troop deployments to counter Russian threats to Ukraine, it would be a mistake to allow a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the Department of Defense (DOD) for FY2022. A CR would maintain the defense budget at $740 billion for FY2022, with inflation causing the DOD to operate under a deficit of approximately $8 billion. As a result, these funds would be misaligned with priorities in 2022 versus 2021. Some money would be unusable, and adequate investment in new training and forward-looking technologies would be curtailed. Overall, a year-long CR would result in negative consequences for readiness, modernization, personnel quantity and quality, investment in new technologies, and the maintenance of existing systems of our warfighting force.
On Wednesday, January 12, Chairwoman Betty McCollum of the Defense Subcommittee of the US House Appropriations Committee called a hearing to elucidate the deleterious effects that a year-long CR would have on US national security, especially in light of the burgeoning great power struggle with China and Russia. Hearing witnesses included General David H. Berger, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Charles Q. Brown Jr., Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations of the United States Navy, General Joseph M. Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Mr. Mike McCord, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), and General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations of the United States Space Force.
Collectively, the witnesses detailed the negative impacts that a CR would have on national security. In addition to the $8 billion lost due to inflation, Undersecretary McCord estimated that second order effects from that deficit could result in a loss of triple that number. A CR would also assign funds aimed at tomorrow’s challenges to last years’ priorities. For instance, last year’s budget allocated billions of dollars to Afghan Security Forces. Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, this money no longer has a proper recipient, rendering it unusable for the DOD.
A year-long CR would also impact force readiness and result in hiring freezes preventing the DOD from attracting and keeping talent. In his testimony, Admiral Gilday stated that the Navy was going to hire 42 Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) to work on the Virginia class submarine programs, but would not be able to under a CR. These SMEs would probably not wait and would search for work elsewhere. Permanent Change of Station’s (PCS) would also have to be put on hold. Some military families, who have been planning for PCSs, and spouses who have accepted jobs in new cities, would be most impacted.
In addition to detracting from the readiness of the force, a year-long CR would prevent the DOD from maintaining and upgrading weapons systems and investing in new technologies. For example, Admiral Gilday described how less funding could prevent the new Virginia class submarine from receiving maintenance in dry dock. This would cause maintenance schedules to drive operations rather than vice versa. He then specified other implications of a year-long CR, including a delay in maintenance for 10% of the US submarine force and a delay in the development of hypersonic systems.
In his remarks, General Martin stated that in the Army, 29 procurement delays and 32 research and development delays would result from a year-long CR. He also referenced plus force signature programs in the Army, 24 of 31 of which are going to be in the hands of soldiers in 2023. A CR would impact 19 of those programs.
In summary, a CR for FY2022 would result in irreversible setbacks for the DOD, impacting existing programs, recruitment and retention, developing and fielding new systems, and overall preparedness. All of the witnesses stressed that while more money, more manpower, and more recruitment can be added in the next few years post year-long CR, time cannot be regained. While the US defense establishment languishes in last years’ budget, adversaries are utilizing that time to gain an edge in new technologies such as hypersonic systems, AI, and command and control systems. In addition, if we let our best talent go, the trust between military and employee will deteriorate.
The members present in the subcommittee hearing all stated that they would like to agree on a budget by early February. However, even if an agreement is reached, there will be costs associated with the delay, which is reflective of a concerning trend. From 1991-2010, the defense budget was passed on average 24 days late. In the last decade, that number has increased to 118 days late, effectively reducing a twelve-month fiscal year into eight. Now is not the time to diminish our commitment to the armed forces. Such action significantly reduces defense purchasing power, and risks signaling a lack of commitment and competence to counter Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Chinese belligerence in East Asia.