Carter Pleads with Lawmakers to Pass Defense Budget

The Gold Crew of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) transits the Hood Canal on Puget Sound in Washington on Sept. 28, 2016, as the boat returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a routine strategic deterrent patrol. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Nov. 29, 2016, warned lawmakers more defense budget delays would set back procurement of the Ohio-class ballistic sub and other programs. (U.S. Navy photo Amanda R. Gray)The Gold Crew of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) transits the Hood Canal on Puget Sound in Washington on Sept. 28, 2016, as the boat returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a routine strategic deterrent patrol. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Nov. 29, 2016, warned lawmakers more defense budget delays would set back procurement of the Ohio-class ballistic sub and other programs. (U.S. Navy photo Amanda R. Gray)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned Tuesday that more delays by Congress in passing a defense budget would impact the campaign against the Islamic State and set back procurement of the Ohio-class ballistic submarine and other programs.

“I am particularly troubled by information that Congress may be considering a CR [continuing resolution] through May. A short-term CR is bad enough, but a CR through May means DoD would have to operate under its constraints for two-thirds of the Fiscal Year. This is unprecedented and unacceptable,” Carter said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

“I urge Congress to keep the CR as short as possible and finish full-year appropriations,” Carter said in the letter, which also went to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.

Separately on Tuesday, lawmakers hammered out a draft agreement on fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending targets for the year that began Oct. 1. The legislation is separate from the appropriations bill, which authorizations funding levels.

The Defense Department and most of the rest of the federal government has been operating on a continuing resolution keeping funding levels at current rates since September, when Congress passed a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown and also to avoid taking a vote before the election.

Carter’s letter was in response to reports that McConnell is considering extending the current continuing resolution until May to avoid interfering with President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda for his first 100 days in office.

“DoD is tasked with acting in real-time to defend our interests in a rapidly changing global security environment, but under a CR we are locked into last year’s budget with last year’s priorities,” Carter wrote.

A long-term continuing resolution rather than a full-year defense budget would lead to shortfalls in “the operations and munitions accounts that fund counter-terrorism operations and assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria,” Carter wrote.

In addition, a continuing resolution would deny authority “to start new programs, increase production rates, or initiate multi-year procurement” on a range of projects, he said.

The result would be that programs deemed critical by the DoD, such as the Ohio replacement program, would be delayed, Carter said. A lengthy continuing resolution also would impact procurements of more KC-46 Tanker aircraft, AH-64 Apache gunships and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, Carter said.

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Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.