A potential long-term continuing resolution (CR) would delay the Army from moving forward on $5.3 billion worth of procurement programs in its fiscal year 2024 budget request, the service’s secretary said Wednesday.

When asked during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of operating under a two-year CR in the event Congress can’t agree on appropriations legislation, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said “tens of procurement new starts” and dozens of research and development efforts would be impacted.

The Honorable Christine Wormuth, United States Secretary of the Army, visits Fort Bragg, N.C., July 19, 2021. During her visit, the 82nd Airborne Division showcased various new technology the U.S. Army will utilize in the future, including the Infantry Squad Vehicle, the Variable Height Antenna, and the Integrated Visual Augmentation System. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jacob Ward).

 “At a time when we are competing with China, I think a CR is basically us sort of fighting with one hand tied behind our back,” Wormuth told the panel. “So it would significantly impede us.”

Wormuth’s comments arrive as Congress’ debate over addressing the debt ceiling has lawmakers eyeing a precarious outlook for passing spending bills later this year. 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday officially rolled out House Republicans’ bill to raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, which includes rolling back FY ‘24 discretionary spending to FY ‘22 levels and limiting spending growth to one percent a year. 

House Republican leaders have previously downplayed the potential for billions of dollars in defense spending cuts as part of such a plan, while McCarthy’s bill does not appear to explicitly exempt defense from potential reductions. 

“For weeks, I have heard my colleagues claim defense, Veterans health care, and border security funding would not be subject to their caps. This reckless bill does not give that assurance. It either puts defense or Veterans funding on the chopping block or cuts other critical government programs by more than 22 percent—a cut far lower than the 2022 level,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, said Wednesday he’d be particularly concerned about a long-term CR’s impact on Army modernization efforts.

“We often are criticized for being slow on modernization. But right now we have the opportunity to transform the Army, the biggest one we’ve done in 40 years. And new starts, production increases, as all of you know, those things don’t happen under a CR,” McConville told lawmakers.

Wormuth added that a two-year CR would “significantly slow down” modernization initiative and cause a “substantial delay” in getting new weapon systems developed and fielded. 

The Pentagon is prohibited from spending money on new programs while operating a CR stop-gap funding measure. 

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Wednesday he would like to see new, limited acquisition authorities that would allow DoD to begin the early stages of new program starts before a final budget is authorized and enacted (Defense Daily, April 19). 

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) asked Wormuth to provide HASC with a list of the specific programs that would be impacted if the Army has to operate under a long-term stopgap funding bill. 

“Once again, drive home that issue so that we might actually be listening to your concerns,” Garamendi said. “Amongst us, we have advocates for one or another of those programs and we ought to know what happens if we have a CR.”

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said rolling back defense spending to FY ’22 levels and having the Pentagon operating under a long-term CR would lead the department to “cut a significant amount of programs” (Defense Daily, March 23).

“Everything that’s been achieved over the last three, four, five, six years, seven years, all of that would start going in the opposite direction with continuing resolutions or if you went back previous budget’s [spending levels]. I think it would be very significant and the risk would increase with China with the wrong signal it would send,” Milley said during a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing last month.