Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this week issued an appeal to Congress to avoid saddling the military with a full-year continuing resolution rather than a regular appropriation. Continuing resolutions are typically stopgap measures designed to keep the government running until Congress can complete its budget deliberations, but Austin is afraid that day might never come for fiscal 2022. If a regular appropriation is not passed and a “CR” sets defense funding for the full year, then the money provided for each military program cannot exceed prior-year levels and new programs can’t start at all. That would have major consequences for a department in the midst of technological transformation, and be a boon for rivals such as China that are seeking to surpass U.S. warfighting prowess. Congress has the power to make exceptions for some programs, but in practice such “anomalies” are rare; the rest of the defense budget is put in a straitjacket shaped by outdated priorities. Beyond the programmatic consequences, you have to wonder how allies and enemies view a country that can’t budget for something as basic as the common defense in a timely fashion. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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