Lynn: Continuing Budget Resolution Puts Security at Risk

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)

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