Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Ashton Carter urged Congress to end budget gridlock and achieve budget stability through bipartisanship.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Carter said budget stability is “critical in order for DoD and our people to address all the national security challenges we face.”
Carter identified three areas in the congressional review process that are of great concern to DoD: 1) budget gridlock and instability; 2) micromanagement; and 3) over-regulation. But at this hearing, he concentrated on budget stability saying he would work with congress on micromanagement and over-regulation when Congress finalizes the FY2017 National Defense Authorization bill. Congress is not expected to complete action on the FY2017 Defense Authorization bill until after the election.
Carter told the committee that budget instability is “one of the biggest strategic risks” to DoD’s enterprise. Such instability undercuts budget planning for warfighters and commanders, “baffles our friends and emboldens foes,” he said.
The inability for Congress to complete action on defense budget bills in a consistent, timely manner is “managerially and strategically unsound” and inhibits industry partners from operating efficiently on technology’s cutting edge, he stressed.
Carter lamented the ongoing use of continuing resolutions to fund defense damages readiness and modernization, as the Joint Chiefs told the committee last week. “Even a short-term CR slows our shipbuilding program,” Carter cited as an example.
He argued that and the possible return to sequestration would devastate military readiness and modernization efforts. Carter warned that the use of budget gimmickry, such as using Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to fund base budget requirements, could make the return to sequestration more likely. Not only that, Carter said, it “harms readiness of our troops in order to buy more force structure than we can afford.”
The House version of the FY2017 DoD Appropriations bill would provide only $42.9 billion through April 2017 and use $16 billion in OCO funding for base budget requirements. The Senate Appropriations Committee bill would provide the full requested amount ($58.6 billion) for OCO.
Carter also rejected congressional proposals that would cut DoD investment priorities to fund programs that were unrequested or of lower priority. These proposals could “seriously imperil our future strength,” he said.
With a little over a week remaining until the beginning of FY2017, Carter pressed Congress to complete action on the FY2017 defense budget and avoid a lengthy continuing resolution. Unless Congress acts, he said FY2017 will begin with another CR for the eighth year in a row. Carter decried this as “a deplorable state of affairs.”