FY17 Budget and Defense Spending in Limbo

April 14, 2017

Members of Congress adjourned Friday, April 7, for a two-week recess, and headed back to their home states and districts, leaving great uncertainty as to what will happen regarding the 2017 budget and associated defense spending.

The government is currently being funded under a continuing resolution (CR), which was signed by President Barack Obama Dec. 10, 2016. The previously passed resolution runs out April 28, just four days after members of Congress return from their recess.

Under a CR, funding remains under the previous year's levels and the start of new programs is not authorized, except in rare circumstances.

When Congress returns, it will face limited options and minimal time to resolve this funding dilemma. Of concern is the potential option of a new CR that would simply carry the government through to the end of the fiscal year. If this is the vote, it will not be well received by those in DoD.

“Candidly, failure to pass a budget, in my view both as an American citizen and chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice,” stated Gen. Mark Milley in testimony along with the other service chiefs this past week before the House Armed Services Committee.

“Adopting a full year CR would mean cancelled training, costly maintenance delays, and supply shortages across the military,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein in the same hearing.

The service chiefs all argued the cumulative effects of eight years CRs and five years of caps on spending have devastated the military just as potential challengers have made significant investments in their own military forces.

So in looking at other options, Congress could pass a funding bill for DoD, though most likely not for any other federal departments. The appropriators in Congress could also pass a CR that would include a number of so-called anomalies that would permit DoD to spend money as it requires, within the statutory cap on total defense spending.

Whatever necessary spending adjustments are not covered by the approved anomalies could be changed in one of two other ways: either by DoD redirecting funds within its budgets or, for larger amounts of money, by congressional approval to reprogram funds.

“On balance, a CR is a poor way to manage programs but Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House would probably ensure that the worst effects do not happen,” former DoD Comptroller Bob Hale stated recently.

MOAA strongly urges Congress to pass a defense spending bill when it returns from recess. We agree with the service chiefs: Anything short constitutes a failure of Congress' most important responsibility under the Constitution - to provide the necessary resources for the nation's defense.

Let your member of Congress know how you feel and urge them to pass a defense spending bill when they return from recess.


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