Secretary Carter Warns About Continuing Resolutions
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — With just two weeks remaining for Congress to pass a budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sounded the alarm about the military consequences of funding the government through continuing resolutions.
For months, Defense Department leaders have been warning about the return of sequestration in fiscal year 2016. But with a continuing resolution now seen as the most likely outcome — at least temporarily — of the current budget impasse, Pentagon officials are arguing that it would be just as bad, if not worse than allowing sequestration to kick in.
President Barack Obama requested $535 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2016. Both sequestration and a year-long continuing resolution would cap base budget funding below $500 billion.
“The alternative to a budget deal, a long-term continuing resolution, is merely sequester-level funding under another name,” Carter said Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference. “And the longer a continuing resolution is, the worse it becomes, eventually resulting in a $38 billion deficit in resources for our military if Congress chooses to pursue this path for a full year.”
Defense official have said that it would complicate the acquisition process because it does not allow for new starts that haven’t already been funded in previous budget years.
Carter said that congressional failure to reach a deal would be a national embarrassment at a time when the United States is facing threats from China, a resurgent Russia and the Islamic State.
“Making these kinds of indiscriminate cuts [to our defense budget] is wasteful to taxpayers and to industry, dangerous for our strategy [and] unfair to our service members,” he said. “Much about the future is unclear, but not this: the self-inflicted damage from sequester, a long-term continuing resolution and continued budget uncertainty would send the wrong message at the wrong time to the world.”
Looking ahead to the fiscal year 2017 budget request, which the Defense Department is considering now, Carter said the following should be key investment priorities for the Air Force: nuclear forces; space and counter-space capabilities; counter-anti-access/area-denial platforms, systems and technologies; cyber capabilities; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, systems and technologies; and guided munitions.
The Pentagon chief suggested that the Air Force will achieve greater prominence now that the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended and the military shifts its focus to the Asia-Pacific and high-end technologies.
“The force is now at the start of a critical strategic transition,” he said. “As our military adjusts its focus on counter-insurgency and redoubles its full spectrum capabilities, the Air Force will play a critical role.”
Carter reiterated the need to lean on industry to acquire new capabilities needed to counter potential adversaries. Those countries are investing in capabilities that threaten to erode the U.S. military’s technological edge, he said. He also called for bringing new industry partners into the defense field.
“One of the things that has been a big priority for me… has been to connect us to the technology base in a way that continues the proud tradition of being …. ‘the firstest with the mostest’ with new technology,” he said. “When I started my career, all the technology of consequence originated in the United States, and most of it originated in sponsorship of the Defense Department. That’s not true anymore … and so we need to definitely build a bridge to a wider world of technology. I’m confident we can do that and that we will remain the very best.”