The Department of Defense is facing the budgetary equivalent of double jeopardy this year because in addition to suffering across-the-board cuts due to sequestration, it is also functioning under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that further constrains how money may be allocated. Like previous CRs, this year’s limits funding in major military accounts to last year’s levels, prohibits new program starts, and precludes entering into multiyear contracts. Those features impede the military’s ability to maintain a high state of readiness and execute a coherent modernization program — and that’s before sequestration cuts are even factored in.
But now for the good news. Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations Hal Rogers has introduced an omnibus spending package for the remainder of the year that would remove the most destructive features of the current CR. The CR now in force expires on March 27 and therefore must be replaced by something if the government is to continue operating. What Rogers proposes is a spending measure that would provide the Pentagon with $616 billion for fiscal 2013 — $529 billion of which would be base budget and the remainder overseas contingency funding.
As InsideDefense.com pointed out in reporting on the Rogers measure, the defense funds it provides would still be subject to sequestration under the Budget Control Act, resulting in roughly an 8% cut to non-exempt accounts (pay for military personnel is exempted from the cuts). The White House budget office says these cuts will feel more like 13% during the remainder of fiscal 2013, because the $43 billion in savings targeted for the year must be realized in a mere seven months. Nonetheless, by removing the onerous features of the CR, the Rogers bill would make it easier for the Department of Defense to spend its funds efficiently. The Rogers bill therefore merits support from anyone who wants to avoid unnecessary damage to the nation’s defenses as the government grapples with trillion-dollar budget deficits.
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