Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned Sept. 22 that a short-term continuing resolution (CR) would hurt the Defense Department’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), of which the Pentagon requested a nearly four-fold increase to help with deterrence of Russia in Europe.
Carter lamented before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) that the Pentagon would likely start a new fiscal year under a CR for the eighth straight year. CRs, in place of an appropriations bill signed into law, continue government funding at the previous year’s spending level. The Pentagon requested $3.4 billion for ERI in fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1. CAPITOL
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) on Sept. 20 introduced CR legislation in the House that would extend FY ’16 funding through Dec. 9, or until appropriation legislation is signed into law, whichever happens first. The bill has been sent to the House Budget Committee.
Another CR bill has been introduced in the Senate. This bill would also fund the government through Dec. 9. This legislation would fund the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account that is not subject to sequestration-related budget caps at a rate of $74 billion, according to a statement by the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC).
Carter, in his opening statement, said a CR lasting longer than three months would undermine U.S. ability to build up prepositioned stocks of equipment and warfighting gear in NATO allied countries. In addition, Carter said a short-term CR would slow the Navy’s shipbuilding program, which he said is line appropriated, and would thereby prevent the Navy from moving forward on key programs and capabilities. CRs also prevent DoD from starting new programs, entering into multi-year agreements or increasing production rates.
The request for a large increase in ERI funding drew the ire of SASC strategic forces subcommittee Chairman Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who chastised Carter for not asking European allies to match the United States’ ERI spending boost. Carter said, in response, that he’s been pushing European allies to meet the goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense and that this, itself, has been a big challenge.
Carter said the U.S. providing defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine remains on the table. This option has been on the table for quite a while, Carter said. If the U.S. were to start providing Ukraine with lethal defensive assistance, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said Ukraine has identified fire support as a critical capability need.
Carter, two weeks earlier, signed a new agreement with his Ukrainian counterpart to help the eastern European nation modernize its military. Carter told reporters in London that the five-year modernization agreement “ran the gamut,” from command and control (C2) and training to acquisition and logistics.