Defense

Austin warns Congress of 'enormous' negative effects of yearlong stopgap bill

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday pressed Congress to end its partisan fighting and pass a funding package for 2022, warning that that an extended stopgap bill would have "enormous" negative effects on the Pentagon.

Congress last week passed a short-term bill to keep the federal government open through Feb. 18, known as a continuing resolution (CR). A full-year CR is unlikely, but military leaders have annually warned against such an occurrence because it would maintain funding at current levels. That can delay new programs and hurt innovation and national security, Austin said.

"The Department of Defense once again faces the threat of a continuing resolution to fund our programs and operations into the new year," Austin said in a statement. 

"While the short-term CR passed by Congress was a necessary measure to keep the government open and provide additional time to reach agreement on full-year appropriations bills, some have even suggested a CR could last an entire year, an unprecedented move that would cause enormous, if not irreparable, damage for a wide range of bipartisan priorities," he added. 

Should a full-year CR be passed, it would lock in about $37 billion less in defense spending than what the House and Senate Armed Services committees have proposed in their annual defense bills.

Austin said a CR would "erode the U.S. military advantage relative to China, impede our ability to innovate and modernize, degrade readiness, and hurt our people and their families. And it would offer comfort to our enemies, disquiet to our allies, and unnecessary stress to our workforce."

He adds that a CR would "result in over five billion dollars in cuts to our operating accounts," which would hurt troop readiness and the military's ability to cover the health care needs of military families.

It would also "significantly impact" new technology programs and delay more than 100 military construction projects. 

"The Department's efforts to address innovation priorities such as cyber, artificial intelligence and hypersonics programs would be slowed," Austin wrote.

Outbrain