Senior Pentagon officials on Wednesday urged Congress to avoid a year-long continuing resolution (CR) they said would lead to tens of billions of dollars in lost purchasing power and delays to hundreds of programs, specifically citing impacts to modernization efforts aimed at competing with China.

During the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (HAC-D) hearing, Republicans reiterated their priorities for a final spending deal, to include setting parity between defense and non-defense spending increases, while Democrats refuted that a GOP counter-offer has been made to break the gridlock and avoid having to operate under a full-year stopgap funding measure.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

“Simply put, CRs are bad for our national security. They increase inefficiency. They waste taxpayers’ money. They also signal to our troops and the millions of workers in the defense industry that their needs are just not a priority. At a time when [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is threatening to invade Ukraine and China continues to be a pacing threat, we do not have time to waste. Our national security cannot afford more CRs,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the HAC-D chair, said during the hearing. 

Rep. Ken Calvert (D-Calif.), the HAC-D ranking member, detailed Republicans’ priorities for the spending legislation and said the committee is the “lone holdout” to not lock in a $25 billion topline increase already proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee and secured in the recently passed FY ‘22 NDAA. 

“We have offered to start negotiations as long as we work under the same terms for negotiations we have worked for in the past two years. They are, simply, no ‘poison pills’ and retain all legacy riders. We’ve also made clear that in order for us to support these bills, domestic spending must come down and defense spending must go up,” Calvert said.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, suggested Republicans have made a counteroffer to Democrats “unrealistic, irresponsible appropriations bills,” which McCollum and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the full committee, both refuted.

“In fact, there has not been an offer. So I have to correct the record,” DeLauro said, noting the issue of “policy riders” and poison pills” are more often debated at the end of the dealmaking process. 

Congress is currently operating under a second CR to keep the government open through Feb. 18, while the measure locks in spending at the FY ‘21 level and blocks the Pentagon from starting new programs (Defense Daily, Dec. 3). 

Mike McCord, the DoD comptroller, told the panel a full-year CR would lead to an $8 billion topline reduction below the requested funding level, while the full financial impact would likely be triple that figure.

“The actual reduction in practice will be much greater because we would have significant funding that’s misaligned, trapped or frozen in the wrong places and unusable because we don’t have the tools and flexibility to realign funds on anything like the scale we would need to fix all the problems that the chiefs are going to describe,” McCord said.

Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval operations, told lawmakers a full-year would have significant impacts on the service’s readiness, modernization and shipbuilding initiatives to include delaying “game-changing investments that we’re making in hypersonics [and] laser weapons.”

“A year-long CR will cost us time that can’t be recovered and have irreversible impact to some of our most important programs. This is exacerbated in a time when we’re still fighting the pandemic as well as…a seven percent inflation rate,” Gilday said.“[It] will further erode our ability to credibly deter our adversary. A year-long CR will yield a smaller, less ready, less capable and less lethal United States Navy.”

Gen. C.Q. Brown, the Air Force chief of staff, said the service could lose $3.5 billion in purchasing power under a full-year CR, to include impacting 78 new start efforts and delaying progress of programs such as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, Long-Range Standoff Weapon, B-21 bomber and Next-Generation Air Dominance effort.

“A year-long CR could irreversibly delay the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent initial operating capability passed 2029, Long-Range Standoff Weapon by over a year and the convention initial operational capability and nuclear certification of the B-21 up to a year. Additionally, advancement of our two hypersonic weapons could be prevented,” Brown said. 

For the Army, Gen. Joseph Martin, the service’s vice chief, said a full-year CR could have a $12.9 billion financial impact and would delay 71 new start programs, 29 planned procurements and 32 research and development efforts. 

“The combined effect of delays in procurement and prototype advancement on top of the disruptions in timelines for development and construction of critical Army and joint technologies may very well create a cumulative impact to our modernization initiatives that would be difficult to overcome,” Martin said. 

Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, said a full-year CR would delay critical acquisition efforts related to the ongoing Force Design 2030 construct effort and negatively impact the U.S.’s military edge over China.

“We actually stand to be outpaced by China not because of their speed but because of our failure to comply with our own budgetary processes,” Berger said. “MQ-9A [Reaper drone] procurement won’t happen. Production increases for F-35Bs, KC-130Js, CH-35K aircraft, the Amphibious Combat Vehicle won’t happen.”

Gen. John Raymond, the Space Force chief, said the newest service could see a $2 billion reduction to its topline as a result of a year-long CR and that it would lead to cutting procurement of two of five planned National Security Space Launch missions and impact $800 million intended for development of classified operational systems “designed to deter China and Russia and respond if deterrence fails.”