BRUSSELS – With the potential for yet another continuing resolution on the horizon, America’s top uniformed official is worried that the Pentagon will be forced into inefficient spending under a condensed fiscal year.
If the new continuing resolution does pass, it would be the fourth of fiscal year 2018, and could potentially drag into the fifth month of the fiscal year. That puts the defense department in tough spot, said Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, because it forces them to spend all the money they hoped to spend over the course of a full year in a compressed timeline.
“We want to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar, and in order to do that, you’ve got to lay out a plan. Sometimes when you’re forced to spend all the money in a compressed period of time at the end of the fiscal year, it isn’t necessarily as efficient a use of the resources as you’d want it to be,” Dunford said. Defense News is travelling with Dunford on a visit to NATO.
With the government set to shut down on Jan. 19 unless a new budget deal is reached, some in Congress are eyeing another continuing resolution to buy time for final negotiations on a broader budget deal. But pro-defense lawmakers, who say short-term spending bills damage the military, are threatening to vote against another stopgap bill without a long-term deal in hand to boost the defense spending.
Dunford believes the defense-focused members of Congress understand what is at risk for the Pentagon, but acknowledged the department needs to do more convincing for those members who are not part of the defense committees. That was a big driver of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ visit last week to the Hill, where he addressed members from outside the defense community.
“I’m aware, just watching it, that there is a larger context within which the defense budget is being reviewed,” the chairman said. “All I can do is continue to do what we do, which is educate the members on what we need in terms of levels of resourcing and [the] impact of continuing resolutions, let alone a government shutdown.”
More broadly, Dunford said leaders in Washington, including on the Hill and in the White House, have a responsibility to solve the budget issue because those out in the field assuming “we are going to do our job and deliver for them the resources they need to do their job.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.