Mattis: Budget stopgap will hurt military

Mattis: Budget stopgap will hurt military

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThis week: Congress races to prevent third shutdown Week ahead in defense: Spending bill, Yemen vote top agenda The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE alerted lawmakers of the effects a stopgap spending measure would have on the military as Congress was passing one, warning that training, recruitment, contracting and other areas would all be curtailed.

“Longer term [continuing resolutions] impact the readiness of our forces and their equipment at a time when security threats are extraordinarily high,” Mattis wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Armed Services committees dated Sept. 8. “The longer the CR, the greater the consequences for our force.”

The letter was in response to a letter Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump informally offered Cohn CIA job before changing his mind: report Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules MORE (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new sanctions against Russia | Key Republicans back VA chief amid controversy | Trump gives boost to military 'space force' Top admiral: Don't be 'overly optimistic' about results of Trump-Kim summit Senate Dems concerned over lack of Mideast ambassadors as Syria war rages on MORE (D-R.I.) wrote to Mattis in August asking about the effects of a three-month and a six-month continuing resolution.

On Friday, President Trump signed a package that included a three-month continuing resolution, Hurricane Harvey relief and a debt-ceiling raise. McCain, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and several other defense hawks voted against the package because of the continuing resolution.

The Pentagon has long warned of the detrimental effects of a continuing resolution, arguing they promote budget uncertainty and prevent the military from starting new programs at a time when threats might require an immediate response.

Mattis’s letter included a laundry list of specifics identified by the service secretaries and chiefs that would be hurt by a continuing resolution.

Effects on training begin immediately and cause lasting damage, Mattis wrote.

“By 90 days, the lost training is unrecoverable due to subsequent scheduled training events,” Mattis wrote. “These training losses reduce the effectiveness of subsequent training events in [fiscal year 2018] and in subsequent years.”

For example, Mattis continued, the scope of a joint live fire field training exercise scheduled to happen at the same time as annual Marine Corps weapons certification events would have to be reduced. That means Marines would fire fewer practice rounds, not fire in a joint operational context and enter subsequent major exercises with that training.

Maintenance and readiness are also immediately affected by a continuing resolution and likewise have ripple effects, Mattis said. For example, the Navy will have to delay the induction of 11 ships, delaying the ship maintenance schedule in fiscal 2018 and slipping ship availabilities in 2019.

“Failure to properly fund readiness restoration initiatives in a stable and consistent manner will impede the recovery of our readiness, which has just begun to see tangible results, and may prove fatal in a future conflict with major-power adversaries,” Mattis wrote.

The continuing resolution also means the military cannot start new construction projects, which Mattis said will affect 37 Navy projects, 16 Air Force projects and 38 Army projects.

No new weapons programs or production rate increases are allowed under stopgaps, either, Mattis said. He cited 18 new Army weapons programs and eight production rate increases would be effected by a three-month continuing resolution. If the continuing resolution is extended to a full year, that increases by 24 new starts and seven production rate increases.

The accession of new recruits is also delayed, hindering the bulk up in troops Congress and the administration agree is needed, Mattis wrote.

Families of troops will also be impacted, Mattis said, because noncritical travel, including permanent change of station, is delayed, resulting in missed hiring opportunities and missed school-year timing.

Payments to medical care providers are delayed, Mattis added, meaning some private sector health care providers could stop serving military patients.

Despite the negative effects of a continuing resolution, Mattis said the longer term threat is the continuation of budget caps known as the Budget Control Act. 

“BCA-level funding reverses the gains we have made in readiness and undermines our efforts to increase lethality and grow the force,” he wrote. “Without relief from the BCA caps, our air, land and sea fleets will continue to erode. BCA caps obstruct our path to modernization and continue to narrow the technical competitive advantage we presently maintain over our adversaries.”