The Pentagon issued an urgent plea Thursday for Congress to pass a fully-funded budget for this year on the eve of a vote to temporarily fund the government at last year’s levels for two more weeks.
The current stop-gap funding measure, known as continuing resolution, expires at the end of the day Friday. A failure to pass a new extension would result in a temporary shutdown of the federal government, which would be highly destructive and waste millions of dollars, Pentagon officials said.
“I’m quite confident that everyone on the Hill understands the consequences of a shutdown and that they will move forward promptly with a CR to avoid that,” said Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist at a briefing for reporters.
But Norquist said even a two-week CR would result in costly delays in programs that are vital to America’s national security.
For example, America’s long-running wars have depleted the stockpiles of bombs and missiles used to battle the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
The new budget includes money to ramp up production of high-demand weapons to replenish the inventory, but as long as spending is frozen at last year’s levels, that initiative cannot begin.
“Commanders asked for it. The secretary signed off on it. [Office of Management and Budget] and the White House submitted it, and if you have seen the congressional marks, they have been very supportive of the administrations budget,” Norquist said. “What the CR says is stop, wait. Don’t award that contract yet, which delays when you begin to increase the quantity and the production.”
That has two negative consequences: The Pentagon cannot meet the demands of its combatant commanders; and the companies who make the munitions have to delay hiring the workers they would otherwise employ now.
“The answer is none of this is fixed until you get a proper appropriation bill,” Norquist said.
In the event of a shutdown, only essential civilian employees would report to work and only activities that are deemed to be directly related to warfighting, national security, protection of life and property would continue.
Military personnel would report to work, but could not be paid until the shutdown ends.