This Fall, our congressional leaders have an important opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to change. We all know that putting federal funding on “auto-pilot” through massive bills known as continuing resolutions (CRs) are an abdication of the government’s most basic responsibilities. When Congress gives in to the temptation to use CRs as more than short-term measures, it affects the lives of ordinary Americans, our troops in foreign countries, and industries supporting the government’s missions. When Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE assumed his House of Representatives leadership post a year ago, he pledged to restore “regular order” and empower House committees to produce bills and conference agreements with the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE has made similar statements over the past year. Beginning this month, we will see if our congressional leaders are able to deliver on their commitment.

The Aerospace Industries Association and our member companies have a great deal at stake in whether or not Congress finishes its work responsibly this year. Together, our companies and the defense and aerospace supply chain provides 1.7 million jobs and 13% of the nation’s manufacturing employment. In fact, aerospace and defense is the nation’s leading net exporter among manufacturers, with a record trade surplus of $81 billion in 2015.

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We listened with hope when Speaker Ryan suggested that restoring regular order in the budget process would be a top priority.  However, after a promising start, progress has stalled. The Budget Committees began ambitiously, but failed to produce a final product. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees reported all 12 appropriations bills, but passage in the full chambers bogged down after the House passed seven and the Senate only three. It is now clear that a short-term CR will be needed by Sept. 30, while Congress continues to finalize these bills.

Short-term CRs serve a constructive purpose when they buy time to negotiate funding levels, consider unique agency needs, and get new information on budget estimates that are as much as a year old. They also provide a vehicle for critical legislation like restoring the normal operations of the U.S. Export Import Bank and providing U.S. manufacturers with a level playing field in the global marketplace. However, this is also the time of year when temptation returns to simply “kick the can down the road” and leave decisions to a new Congress. In fact, that is exactly what happened the last year of a Presidential election. In September 2012, Congress passed a six-month CR lasting until March 27, 2013, then summarily passed another six-month bill, at the very time agencies were responding to the effects of sequestration. In February 2013, the leaders of our military services advised Congress that the long CR had resulted in budget reductions causing hiring freezes, a release of temporary employees, a loss of cost efficiencies in modernization contracts, and significant readiness impacts.

After pledging to take a new and more productive path, our Congressional leaders cannot repeat the mistake of 2012. First, extended CRs lock in previous spending levels, with none of the reforms and oversight initiatives contained in individual appropriations bills. Secondly, CRs that go into the next calendar year unnecessarily delay federal programs and provide contracting nightmares for the Department of Defense and other agencies. Air Force Secretary Deborah James recently estimated that as many as 60 Air Force modernization programs would be impacted by a long-term CR. And because 2017 is a Presidential transition year, we must be realistic in understanding that “kicking the can” into 2017 will only lead to more “kicking” until the year is over.

In a new movie coming to theaters this month, Tom Hanks plays Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline captain who successfully guided U. S. Airways flight 1549 to a miracle landing in the Hudson River under harrowing and heroic conditions in January 2009. The nation’s budget process is likewise now headed for the Hudson. Congressional leaders need to manually override any extended autopilot temptation options.

To take control is to take responsibility and that is precisely what our elected officials should be doing. As Speaker Ryan said last year, “Committees should take the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill.”  While our military is continuing to battle ISIL, responding to China’s military assertiveness and reassuring European allies over the threat of Russian aggression, how will it look if Washington continues to conduct business as usual, promising change but then giving in to the temptation, once again, to take the easy road?

David F. Melcher is President and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.