Understanding the Unseen Costs of a Continuing Resolution

Understanding the Unseen Costs of a Continuing Resolution
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As we approach the third month of the new fiscal year, the government remains budget-less – operating under its second continuing resolution (CR) … and continuing a long tradition of a broken funding process.


Since the start of the fiscal year moved to Oct. 1 with the 1977 budget cycle, Congress has passed at least one CR in every year but three. The last year without a CR was 1997. DoD’s plans to operate without a budget have become “routine in nature,” according to a 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, regularly postponing contracts or training in anticipation of budget gridlock.


Alongside routine preparation comes routine waste – money that could be going to address systemic issues within DoD, from horrendous barracks conditions to ongoing recruiting challenges, and could be used in support of preserving the service-earned benefits MOAA fights to protect.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Pass a Budget]


Multiple reports from various agencies point to a lack of study into the full costs of CRs. In 2019, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the lack of a budget cost the department $19 billion. And two years earlier, then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer added a compelling visual to his financial outlook.


“We have put $4 billion in a trash can, poured lighter fluid on it, and burned it,” Spencer said in describing the money lost by his department due to CRs from 2011 to 2017.


Lost Funds

An Air Force contracting offer outlined this wasteful process writing for The Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University:

  • Mismatched Money: CRs offer limited budget flexibility, so if a program is ready to move from testing to production, for instance, it may be stalled instead, with no money allocated in the production budget and funds going to waste in the testing budget.

  • The Price of Planning: Appropriators must spend time and money preparing for potential shutdowns, moving around what funds they can to anticipate CRs, and making other costly last-minute adjustments.

  • Hiring Headaches: “As a previous Squadron Commander, with hiring authority for the civilian personnel assigned to the unit, I can attest that attracting and hiring talented employees was made more challenging by the limitations and fiscal uncertainty caused by the CR,” Lt. Col. Timothy Cabana wrote. “The demand for talent is high and high performing workers did not wait around for the government to pass a budget before taking another position.”


On top of this waste comes a new wrinkle for the current CR – an automatic 1% across-the-board budget cut if Congress hasn’t passed a full budget by Jan. 1, with no exception for DoD or the VA, under language in the 2023 debt ceiling deal.


[NDAA UPDATE: MOAA Priorities in Play as House, Senate Begin Final Negotiations]


Ending the Cycle

While members of MOAA’s advocacy team have taken these issues to key lawmakers repeatedly, these representatives and their staffs need to hear from those who matter most – their constituents.


Send a simple message through our Legislative Action Center and make it clear to your senators and House members that the status quo of costly CRs isn’t acceptable – not when so much needs done to maintain the strength of the all-volunteer force. Share the link with your network: You don’t have to be a MOAA member to join the action center and participate in all of MOAA’s ongoing advocacy efforts.


Constant pressure from constituents can snap this cycle and end an all-too-regular (and wasteful) rush to fund the government at year’s end. Make your voice heard today.


MOAA Looks Out For You

MOAA is committed to protecting the rights of servicemembers and their families. Lend your voice and support these efforts today. Because the larger our voice is, the greater our impact will be.


About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley