Right now, Congress is teetering on the edge of a slippery slope that could damage our military capabilities for generations and jeopardize our ability to deal with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorism.
When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the United States military faced a serious readiness crisis. Two-thirds of the Navy’s F/A-18 fighter jets were not mission-capable. Only three of the Army’s 58 brigade combat teams could be called upon to fight that night. Maintenance was backlogged for years. Critical training exercises had been cut. Qualified technicians were leaving the service.
President Trump has taken action to rebuild readiness, modernize our forces and restore our competitive advantage. He launched a new National Defense Strategy to focus on 21st century threats and deter near-peer competitors like Russia and China.
We have since reinvested in our military, and as a result, readiness is on the rise and modernization efforts are underway. But much of this progress will be lost if Congress and the White House do not come to an immediate agreement on a funding plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Budget negotiations have been going on for months, but little progress has been made. Congress only has so long until the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30. As a result, lawmakers and the administration have openly discussed the possibility of a one-year continuing resolution.
The use of a CR would be a grave mistake. It will kill our military’s readiness recovery effort and devastate our defense capability.
Last year was the first time in a decade that the Pentagon started the fiscal year without at least a three-month CR. However, the Department of Defense has never operated under a full-year CR.
To most federal agencies, a continuing resolution is an inconvenience. To the Department of Defense, it is devastating.
A continuing resolution locks spending at the previous level. That doesn’t sound so bad, but funds cannot be reprogrammed from one account to another. No new programs can begin, and production increases are not allowed. Certain contracting actions are restricted, and purchasing power is lost.
The DoD operates differently than other federal agencies. It issues hundreds of thousands of contracts every year and relies upon large, itemized procurement accounts to purchase complex systems like satellites, ships and fifth-generation aircraft.
Without stable, predictable funding, the DoD will be debilitated in regard to readiness, recapitalization and rationalization.
Continuing resolutions kill readiness. Under a CR, training must be scaled back or discontinued. Routine maintenance is postponed. Hiring and recruitment come to a screeching halt. These draconian measures result in costly delays and war fighters who are less lethal and prepared for battle.
Continuing resolutions delay recapitalization. Many of the military’s current systems need major upgrades to ensure operational readiness. Ships, submarines and aircraft that are well past their useful lives cannot be rebuilt under a CR. This would directly affect 85 modernization programs in the Army, 89 programs in the Air Force and dozens of programs in the Navy.
Meanwhile, Russia and China are speeding new technologies to the front lines, and our systems are becoming more outdated by the minute.
Continuing resolutions prevent rationalization. Under a CR, the DoD would be incapable of rationalizing funding to align with Trump’s national defense strategy.
The DoD would be forced to execute a budget over three years old that is based on priorities and guidance from the Obama administration. Implementation of President Trump’s National Defense Strategy would be delayed by at least a year, and projects that are now unnecessary would continue to receive funding.
For example, the DoD’s procurement account contains $4 billion that the DoD was going to cut or cancel in order to align with Trump’s National Defense Strategy. Under a CR, the DoD is forced to continue funding these unnecessary programs.
CRs cause the military’s maintenance, procurement and operating costs to skyrocket. These additional expenses will dramatically offset any perceived short-term savings from a CR.
Finally, under a CR, our service members will not receive the 3.1 percent pay raise that is planned for this year.
A continuing resolution is the most insidious thing Congress can do to our men and women in uniform. It would cause irreparable harm and set us back for a generation.
Sixteen of my colleagues and I sent a letter encouraging the Trump administration to work with us to avoid a CR for fiscal 2020. We believe nothing has the potential to damage the economic and national security of the United States more than Congress’ inability to provide consistent, annual funding for our military.
Our near-peer competitors are watching. They do not handcuff their militaries with funding gimmicks and continuing resolutions, and neither should we.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is a former Fortune 500 CEO and a member of the Senate Armed Services and Budget committees.