Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen took the department’s 2012 budget to the House Armed Services Committee defending the $553 billion request as striking the right balance between preserving the strength of the military and downsizing the department’s costs.
But, as has happened frequently this week, the 2011 budget, which while long overdue has not been approved by Congress, got a lot of attention.
Mullen painted a not-so-pretty picture of what he thinks will happen if Congress fails to pass a defense spending bill in favor of a continuing resolution that runs through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30).
“Some programs may take years to recover if the continuing resolution is extended through the end of September,” he said.
The proposed continuing resolution, a stopgap spending measure that caps funding at the previous year’s levels, would provide the Defense Department with $526 billion in funding, which is about $23 billion less than the Pentagon requested.
“I urge you to pass the fiscal year 2011 defense bill immediately,” Mullen told the committee. “Even at a reduced topline, it will provide us the tools we need to accomplish the bulk of the missions we have been assigned.”
Mullen said an extension of the CR (the current version of which expires March 4) would hamper the department’s “flexibility.”
And, already he said, the military services are feeling the CR’s squeeze.
As a result of the CR’s funding gap, the Navy has not bought a second Virginia-class submarine and the Army and Marines had cut back on civilian hiring, Mullen told the panel.
The shortfall is also affecting contracting as well, he added.
“All the services are now prevented from issuing contracts for new major military construction projects,” he said.