House lawmakers are scrambling to put together an FY-11 defense spending bill this week so as to avoid having to pass a year-long continuing resolution that would leave the Pentagon billions short of its funding requirements for FY-11.
"We've been working on that now all night the last few nights and I'm hearing now that we'll be working on that all night tonight and maybe all tomorrow." said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., during a hearing today on the Air Force's 2012 budget today. "It would be devastating to the [DoD] to have a year-long CR; we desperately need to get this appropriations bill done for the military."
This came as senior defense officials continued their PR offensive to highlight just how bad a year-long continuing resolution in lieu of an FY-11 defense spending bill would be for the Defense Department.
Perhaps one of the most urgent actions that would be hurt by a CR would be the Air Force's effort to fly 65 UAV combat air patrols in the Middle East by 2013, according to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
"CR will delay our ability to achieve 65 UAV CAPS by 2013" because it could lead to a stop in the purchase of UAVs along with causing gaps in the production of satellites such as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite and the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, said Donley during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Also today, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a CR would reduce the Pentagon's budget by $23 billion over this year's budget request.
This means the services have already begun cutting spending.
For example, the Navy isn't buying government furnished equipment for a new Arleigh Burke class destroyer while "The army and marine corps have curtailed or frozen civilian hiring and all the services are prevented from issuing contracts for new major military construction," said Mullen. "Some programs may take years to recover if the CR is extended through the end of September." He went on to say that even a curtailed 2011 defense spending bill would be better than a CR since it would allow for so called, new starts, for the purchase of new weapons.
The Pentagon would need an appropriations bill of at least $540 billion for FY-11 to operate effectively, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates during the same hearing.
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee ranking minority member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said that if Congress fails to put together an FY-11 defense spending bill lawmakers must get creative in how to ensure certain defense projects are funded.
"We're gonna have to get a little creative about that in Committee because the way OMB decides what can and can't be funded is just fascinating," said Smith. "They're looking for legislative intent that says this program should go forward. What was used as legislative intent in a fair number of circumstances was the omnibus appropriations bill that had a brief but exciting life last December . . . it strikes me that maybe I should introduce a few bills tomorrow that" could show legislative intent to keep programs going.
"If we do a CR, we'll have to get creative about what we can do to show legislative intent," he added.