EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida – The head of the U.S. Defense Department on Thursday criticized lawmakers in Congress for passing a temporary budget and delaying a spending bill until March 2017.
Leaders in both the House of Representatives and Senate agreed to extend a stopgap spending measure known as the continuing resolution, or CR, which was set to expire Dec. 9, rather than approve a full-year appropriations bill.
“There’s nothing good to say about the absence of a budget,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters during a briefing here. “This is the eighth consecutive year in which the Department of Defense has not had an appropriations bill at the end of the fiscal year.”
Sen. John McCain had even harsher words for his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
“They’re harming the military and will do great damage to the military and our ability to defend the nation,” McCain told reporters, according to a report from RollCall. “That’s why they’re idiots.”
The Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee continued, “I’ll blame whoever it is that says we’ve got to do a continuing resolution.”
Carter described the lack of legislation as “unfair to troops.”
He added, “They deserve budget stability and the knowledge that the Congress is supporting them with the funding they need, it means that we can’t begin some things that are essential new things … and it creates uncertainty for all of our [defense] industry partners.”
For example, the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, a program valued at $21.4 billion just for the initial contract, is currently in development by Northrop Grumman Corp. and may be impacted.
Other programs in limbo include the Navy’s Ohio Class Replacement program, being developed by both General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. Program officials were anticipating appropriations funding that would allow them to shift from development, to detail, design and construction.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers on Thursday said he was disappointed the bill didn’t get resolved and a temporary budget was approved instead. However, the Kentucky Republican also said he had high hopes the Trump administration and GOP-lead Congress would finish the job next year.
Carter said in certain circumstances, the Pentagon can consider certain moves to relieve financial pressures, but added he wasn’t “optimistic they’ll consider exceptions to a non-budget.”
During the afternoon, Carter traveled to Hurlburt Field to witness Air Force and Army special operations training and to Eglin to observe new technology being developed such as small unmanned drones.