Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is urging Congress to pass full spending bills before the end of 2022, telling lawmakers that operating under a continuing resolution (CR) reduces the Pentagon’s topline “by at least $3 billion per month” below the requested fiscal year 2023 funding level. 

“It is essential that Congress act now to complete a full-year, whole of government funding bill before the end of 2022. Failure to do so will result in significant harm to our people and our programs and would cause harm to our national security and our competitiveness,” Austin wrote in a letter to top lawmakers.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III conducts a press briefing after the release of the unclassified National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review, and Missile Defense Review at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Oct. 27 2022. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza)

In the letter, first reported by Politico, Austin cites the CR’s impacts on the Pentagon’s plans for research and development and procurement efforts, modernization of the nuclear triad and training initiatives. 

“The CR costs us time as well as money, and money can’t buy back time, especially for lost training events. Under the CR, Congress prohibits the military from commencing new initiatives, such as those requested by our theater commanders in the Indo-Pacific and around the world or in support of Service members and their families at home,” Austin wrote. “Under the CR, the progress funded by our FY2023 research and development budget – the largest requested in history – cannot take place. And our FY2023 procurement request – also the largest requested in history – cannot be fully executed. An ongoing CR will cause delays in all three legs of the nuclear triad when we have no schedule margin left to give. It is also slowing our progress in space, delaying necessary new investments in our industrial base and getting ship construction on contract.”

Austin sent copies of the letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas), leaders of the Congressional Appropriations Committees. 

Congress previously passed a CR to keep the government open through Dec. 16 as it works to complete final budgets for FY ‘23, while the move sets spending at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels and prohibits the Pentagon from initiating new programs (Defense Daily, Sept. 30). 

In his letter, Austin urges the lawmakers to avoid having to operate under an extended CR into the new year and said continued stopgap funding legislation would hinder progress getting after the new National Defense Strategy. 

“We must break this pattern of extensive inaction. We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our back three, four, five or six months of every fiscal year. Since I unveiled our National Defense Strategy in March, I have found strong support for it in Congress, in our force, across America and with our allies and partners. Our FY2023 budget was designed precisely to make that strategy real. But we can’t implement that strategy unless and until the budget is funded,” Austin writes.

The Pentagon in late October released an unclassified version of the new National Defense Strategy that reinforces the “pacing challenge” of China as the department’s prime focus over the more “acute threat” presented by Russia and also provides further details on the department’s new “integrated deterrence” concept (Defense Daily, Oct. 27). 

Austin also notes that a year-long stopgap funding measure would cause DoD to lose an entire year of investment in our infrastructure” because military construction projects are considered new start programs. 

“I strongly urge you to act decisively – now- to meet America’s needs and support our forces who support all of us, by immediately reaching a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on full year 2023 appropriations for DoD and all agencies. As I have said before, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing you can do for our nation’s defense,” Austin wrote in his letter.

The House Appropriations Committee previously voted 32 to 26 in June to approve its $761.7 billion FY ‘23 spending bill for the Pentagon (Defense Daily, June 22).

In late July, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its plan to spend $850 million on defense-related programs in FY ‘23, to include $792.1 billion for the Pentagon (Defense Daily, July 28).