Washington, DC – The Defense Department still doesn’t have a budget and is still operating under a continuing resolution, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said to the Defense Writers Group here today (Jan. 30).
As the fight continues on Capitol Hill over the government budget, DoD officials are getting ready to submit the president’s defense budget request for fiscal year 2019, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva noted.
“There ought to be more than just a little bit of irony in your mind that we are trying to deliver a proposed budget on time to the Hill, when we don’t actually know what we are going to get for ’18,” he said. “This is called gambling.”
When the department is under a continuing resolution, it cannot start any new programs or any new spending streams, Selva said. “This means training continues reasonably unabated as long as there is money, but you can’t refresh any of the equipment that is used up in training, and you can’t buy new,” he explained.
Continuing Resolutions Impact Readiness, Planning
A continuing resolution makes long-term planning nearly impossible, the general said. Any program that was supposed to start in fiscal 2018, he added, is not authorized to start. “We don’t actually know the impact the [continuing resolution] will have on ’19 until a budget is actually passed,” Selva said.
The fiscal 2018 budget was supposed to be in place Oct. 1, and its absence has spawned a variety of continuing resolutions and a government closure. The current resolution runs out Feb. 8. Even if a budget is passed before the deadline, Selva said, all the acquisition programs will be crammed into the rest of the fiscal year.
Problem for Service Members and Industry
This is a problem for service members — who don’t get the equipment or capabilities they need — and for industry, the general said. “The industries that produce the things that we buy and consume are kind of in a three-point stance waiting to go. They are waiting for the starter’s gun to sound so they can get to work,” Selva said. “There is a point in the near future where they will not be able to finish the race. The question is will any of them step to the side and sit down on the bench and actually not be ready at all.”
This is because any investment a company makes on a possible new award presents a risk to the company, he said.
The department knows what it is talking about, the vice chairman said, as this is the 10th consecutive year in which DoD has operated under a continuing resolution, adding that a continuing resolution has a real impact on readiness.
“If you get too far into the year, you cannot recover,” the general said. “Our experience tells us that four to six months is that point of no return.”
Many aspects of the recent government shutdown cost taxpayers money, but one also directly affected military readiness, Selva said. “Roughly 100,000 guardsmen and reservists were scheduled to drill over [that weekend],” he said. “Because the government shut down, they were all sent home. There isn’t another weekend for them to recover their lost drill time.”