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Budget Battles Create More Risk for Military: Shanahan

In this March 27, 2008, file photo, an aerial view of the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In this March 27, 2008, file photo, an aerial view of the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday the never-ending budget battles in Congress translate into more risk for the military.

"If you don't have the money, it slows things down -- just by definition, it slows things down. That's the real risk," said Shanahan, the No. 2 at the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

"The pace at which we would expect to bring on new capability gets retarded," and the pace at which "we could generate readiness gets delayed," he told Pentagon reporters.

In the current bout of brinkmanship in Congress, the Defense Department could end up having to file a proposed budget for 2019 before the defense budget for 2018 is finally passed and signed by President Donald Trump.

The DoD and the rest of government currently are working off a continuing resolution (CR) that keeps funding at 2017 levels until Congress can agree on a budget for 2018.

The CR expires at midnight Friday, but Shanahan said he expects a government shutdown to be avoided by Congress passing another CR to keep things running through Jan. 19.

Shanahan echoed Mattis and the service chiefs in warning of the long-term damage done by budget uncertainty.

"Let's say you're having to do more, but someone said, 'You have to operate at the budget you had last year.' You're just going to defer as many choices as you can, whether it's military construction, maintenance," he said.

"You just kick the can down the road on as many of those things" as possible, Shanahan said.

"If you don't have the money, you have to find a workaround. That's a fact of life. It's painful. You make mistakes," he said. "We're hoping that the [2018] budget comes out before the [2019] budget."

Earlier this month, Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] for 2018, which calls for nearly $700 billion in defense spending, including a 2.4 percent pay raise for the military.

However, the NDAA only set policy and has yet to have funding approved by the various appropriations committees.

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was confident another CR would be passed to avoid a shutdown at midnight Friday and keep the government running through Jan. 19 at 2017 spending levels.

Ryan said the CR offered by Republicans is "clean," meaning it does not contain provisions that are contentious enough to threaten the bill's eventual passage.

"We're just bringing a clean -- what we call vanilla, CR -- no games, no sneaky things. Just a continuing resolution to get us through this moment to get us into next year," Ryan told CNBC.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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