While Congress looks to have another month to agree to fiscal 2022 appropriations bills, which will likely bundle in a package, including the defense spending bill, leaders of the Air Force Association (AFA) point to the impact on modernization of the congressional reliance on continuing resolutions (CR).

“To ensure our Air and Space Forces can effectively deter or, if necessary, defeat our adversaries, the Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Appropriations bill must quickly be enacted,” AFA president Bruce “Orville” Wright and AFA chairman Gerald Murray wrote in a Feb. 10 leader to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “AFA strongly supports the immediate adoption of such legislation.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown has said that a year-long Continuing Resolution “could irreversibly delay the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent initial operating capability past 2029, the Long-Range Standoff Weapon by over a year, and the conventional initial operating capability and nuclear certification of the B-21 up to a year.” The Air Force is building six Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-21 Raider stealth bombers in Palmdale, Calif., and wants to move from development to production in fiscal 2023.

Sustaining the defense industrial base to build Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35s, Boeing [BA] F-15EXs, and lead to the advances required for the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter and associated systems is another concern for AFA.

To counter China’s rapid modernization of air and land forces, “we’ve got to build an NGAD capability, but it won’t be done without sustainment of the aerospace industrial base that lives where we’re building F-15EXs and F-35s, that the Skunk Works and the Phantom Works are doing,” Wright said on Feb. 10. “That’s where NGAD is going to come from and the ability to deter the Chinese in a Taiwan Straits/South China Sea scenario.”

Wright also said that a CR disrupts U.S. efforts to make inroads on Chinese hypersonic weapons advances, including their building of dozens of hypersonic wind tunnels.

“I think the utility of hypersonics goes beyond what the Chinese have to do or think they have to do to defend their borders out to extended ranges,” he said. “They’ve gone well beyond a defensive approach of trying to threaten an aircraft carrier to a very counter-offensive, if not offensive, capability in their investment in hypersonics. That’s what bothers me. While that could turn into a spending race, I think what we have to do is continue to focus on how do you hold a range of targets at risk in both Russia and China, and when you start to count the number of targets we need to hold at risk to have credible deterrence for our diplomats to engage, then there’s not enough capability in the Department of the Air Force–the Department of Defense, really–to hold those targets at risk.”

Wright and Murray said on Feb. 10 that a bipartisan consensus seems to be emerging that national security threats demand a return to the enactment of yearly defense appropriations measures.

“Unfortunately, the negative effects of a full year Continuing Resolution are not confined to the Air Force,” per Wright and Murray’s Feb. 10 letter to congressional leaders. “Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond stated a full year Continuing Resolution will take away 25 percent of the funds needed to maintain, service and modernize its mission critical systems. Such an outcome means, once again, our nation will self-inflict needless obstacles on our servicemembers while our adversaries’ speed toward their goal of dominating the warfighting domain of space.”

On Feb. 9, top congressional appropriators said that they have reached a deal on a bipartisan spending framework that sets a path for completing fiscal year 2022 spending bills (Defense Daily, Feb. 9).

Leahy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that negotiations on final spending figures and eventual omnibus legislation will continue through the new March 11 government funding deadline.

The House on Feb. 9 voted 272 to 162 to pass a new continuing resolution to keep the government open through March 11, and Schumer said that he wants the upper chamber to take up the stopgap funding measure “quickly.”