Pentagon not happy with another stop-gap spending bill

Pentagon not happy with another stop-gap spending bill
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The Pentagon on Thursday made clear Defense officials are not pleased with anything less than a fully funded budget for fiscal 2018, even as the Senate passed a two-week stop-gap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist told reporters at the Pentagon that even a two-week funding bill, which freezes spending at last year’s levels, would delay vital national security programs.

The funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), is an extension of the CR that has been in place for several months and was due to run out Friday at midnight.

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Norquist pointed to the Pentagon’s efforts to build up diminished stockpiles of bombs and other munitions — used to fight terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa — which would be hindered under a stop-gap spending measure.

“We would like to increase the production of some of those munitions. The military commanders asked for it, secretaries signed off on it,” Norquist said ahead of the House's vote on Thursday, which preceded the Senate's vote.

“What the CR says is ‘stop, wait, don’t award that contract yet,’ which delays when you begin to increase the quantity and the production ... none of this is fixed until you get a proper appropriation bill.”

Lawmakers have been unable to get rid of spending caps put in place in 2011 that limit defense dollars not directly related to overseas military operations.

Republicans and Democrats routinely disagree over whether to match increases in the defense spending with equal adds to domestic budgets, even as Pentagon officials argue the military is under significant strain with the spending restrictions.

When asked why the Pentagon has been unable to convince Congress to lift the caps, Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White pointed to a “lot of competing interests in the country.”

“Obviously, we have to advocate for the warfighter. We will always strive to make a better case to Congress ... regarding the threats that are looming, and we will continue to do that and make our case,” she said.

With the most recent CR, lawmakers now have until Dec. 22 to negotiate a bipartisan budget deal. After that, Congress is expected to pass another to allow appropriators to create a spending package to fund federal agencies through the rest of fiscal 18.