As the government-wide stopgap funding measure known as a continuing resolution (CR) nears its Dec. 3 expiration, there have been a few encouraging signs. But all optimism could be dashed if Congress doesn’t act fast.
CRs occur when Congress doesn’t meet its own schedule for funding the federal government. This scheduling delay is wasteful and calamitous for those in uniform and costs taxpayers billions of dollars (more on that later). During a CR:
- Planned training exercises, official travel, and hiring actions are often halted.
- Obsolete programs continue to be funded at last year’s rate.
- New programs are put on hold and can incur dramatic cost increases because of the delays.
- Short-term CR deadlines take precedence over long-term planning, and the entire federal government operates under the threat of a shutdown.
Three months into the new fiscal year with no funding is unsatisfactory, and MOAA urges Congress to stop this wasteful trend.
The president signed legislation Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown; the chamber votes indicate movement off the middle, with the House passing the measure 254-175 and the Senate approving it 65-35. This level of support for a temporary solution is somewhat encouraging, and it sets up a variety of potential near-term outcomes.
What Could Happen Next?
First, this could foreshadow continued desires to again kick appropriations down the road with more continuing resolutions, lasting somewhere between two weeks and well into the new year.
The longer our government operates under a continuing resolution, the more money is lost across the breadth of agencies. The Government Accountability Office tackled the issue in a recent report to congressional committees, citing FY 2020 figures from each military department on the estimated cost of a full-year continuing resolution:
- Navy: $20.6 billion loss
- Air Force: $11.8 billion loss
- Army: $8.8 billion loss
These losses reverberate throughout the departments as leaders search for alternative sources of funding to continue modernization and not lose momentum relative to adversaries. We know from history that defense leaders turn to personnel and family programs as a source of funding for other programs.
Second, if the show of support holds, this could parlay into more comprehensive efforts toward full appropriations – or at least to get the ball rolling on the appropriations bills still stuck in Congress. But it would take exceptional commitments from both sides to have a chance on making headway toward full appropriations.
A third outcome would be some combination the first two -- another continuing resolution, but with the promise of getting together to finish up appropriations at the beginning of the new year.
Throughout this process, MOAA remains concerned the call from party leaders could result in lawmakers returning to their respective camps to prepare for a long fight over our national priorities and how to fund them. As such, it is imperative you let your legislators know we are not content sitting on the sidelines waiting for the long fight while enduring priorities like the defense of our nation, and taking care of those who have raised their hand to go into harm’s way, are being neglected.
Contact your elected officials using MOAA’s toll-free congressional hotline, 1-866-272-6622, to share this important message:
Our country is still healing from many ailments, not the least of which is polarization on Capitol Hill. Regardless of party or politics, we need a Congress that can execute the duties of the day. This sounds simple, but I know it is far from that – in fact, when it comes to a timely budget, it is apparently quite difficult.
I am asking you to reach across the aisle for the greater good, and to ensure the responsibility of funding the government is not lost or delayed in the process of negotiating other priorities. Of particular interest to me and my family is the defense of our nation and the responsibilities we all have for members of our uniformed services who selflessly serve our nation and do so without complaint or compromise. We all could continue to learn from their dedication.
Thank you for your service and for taking a leadership role in solving our nation’s funding challenges.
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