WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 — The Defense Department is losing billions of dollars by Congress’ failure to pass the department’s fiscal 2011 budget, putting readiness, modernization and efficiency initiatives at risk, the deputy defense secretary said today.
The department has gone five months into the fiscal year under a continuing budget resolution that holds appropriations at their previous levels, William J. Lynn III told members of a Senate appropriations subcommittee.
“In a time of war, with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the front lines, this is no time to do a continuing resolution,” Lynn said. He quoted Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in saying that failure to pass the current year’s budget is “a crisis at our doorstep” that “will damage national security.”
To continue to work under the continuing budget resolution would result in “the worst of all possible reductions” to the defense budget that would “hollow out” the military during wartime, Gates said at a congressional hearing in January.
The department requested $549 billion for the fiscal 2011 budget, Lynn said, and requiring it to support operations under a continuing resolution until Sept. 30, when the budget year ends, will cause it to lose about $23 billion.
“It’s detrimental to readiness, to modernization, and to efficient business practices,” he said.
The services have had to cut flying hours, defer equipment maintenance and stop acquisitions programs, such as those for a Navy destroyer, a new Virginia-class submarine and Army Humvee vehicles, Lynn said.
“The services have delayed 75 projects that affect our capabilities and quality of life for our service men and women,” he said.
“If we have to continue under the CR, problems like these would snowball,” Lynn told the subcommittee. “We would be forced to play a shell game; we would have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”
Lynn was joined by the department’s comptroller, Robert F. Hale, who confirmed that department officials have to take money from accounts that pay things like training, maintenance and acquisitions to fund “must-pay” bills such as salaries and health care coverage.
Operating under a continuing resolution makes the department less efficient — contrary to Gates’ efficiencies initiative that has found more than $150 billion in savings since it was announced in August, Lynn and Hale said.
The senior defense officials said programs and projects that are delayed or postponed end up costing more, and often with lower workmanship, because they tend to get rushed. Lynn also said he’s concerned about the unknowns in the current budget environment.
“Since we’ve never had a year-long continuing resolution for defense, and certainly never operated under one during a time of war, it’s the effects we haven’t thought of that I’m more worried about,” he said.
Asked about a possible governmentwide shutdown by Congress, Lynn said the department would have to furlough up to half of its civilian workers.
“It certainly would cause enormous destruction and enormous distraction, and it’s something I think the country would want to avoid at a time of war,” he said.
Lynn also spoke to the department’s fiscal 2012 budget request of $671 billion, which was submitted to Congress last month. The request, he said, is “reasonable in meeting our national security needs and prudent in meeting the president’s deficit reduction plans.”
Still, Lynn said it seemed premature to talk about next year’s budget before Congress has approved that for the current year.
“In our view, this is not a workable situation,” he said of the continuing resolution.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)