While Congress averted a government shutdown this week, its current course could lead to lasting damage to weapons programs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs made clear today.
“Some programs may take years to recover if the continuing resolution is extended through the end of September,” Adm. Mike Mullen told the House Appropriations Committee. While the House and Senate rushed through a two-week bill yesterday, the fundamental problem remains unsolved.
Work is already being disrupted on several large defense programs. The Army has no funds to refurbish Humvees and has had to let 300 depot workers go. The Navy cannot award contracts for a second Virginia-class submarine, a second DDG-51, or the first Mobile Landing Platform. The Air Force won't be able to buy more Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Sen. Daniel Inouye said yesterday at the beginning of a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale added that the Army has been forced to issue an emergency order shutting down work on the Stryker Mobile Gun system.
Given that time is money, especially on technologically complex programs, this will all cost more money than it currently saves down the road, Hale and other senior defense officials have noted.
On top of this, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House appropriators needs immediate permission from Congress to reprogram $1.2 billion for troops in Afghanistan. DoD asked the Hill for permission last month. "As of last week, all congressional committees except this one approved the request,” Gates said pointedly. Much of the money is intended to avert deaths from IEDs.
“Our troops need this force-protection equipment and they need it now,” the secretary said, noting that winter is coming to an end in Afghanistan so fighting will ramp up soon.