Lawmakers Warn of Harm Another CR Would Do to DoD
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Lawmakers made pointed comments about a potential government shutdown, or even signing a short-term spending bill instead of a longer one later this month, during the Sea-Air-Space Congressional Breakfast April 4.
“We are starting to get antsy here,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., ranking member of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee.
The federal government’s temporary spending bill, a continuing resolution (CR), expires on April 28. The fiscal year ends five months later, meaning some type of action needs to take place prior to then, and a funding showdown in a divided Congress is brewing.
Courtney and subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., spent extensive time talking about the downfalls of signing another CR, or having a shutdown similar to the one in 2013.
“If the CR passes, things that will happen will be very splashy and ugly. People will get a rude awakening. … We need to avoid the ugly fallout,” Courtney said.
Wittman, however, said he believes there’s a better than 50/50 chance a budget gets passed, noting he’s hearing members have significant resistance to a CR. But getting a compromise across both sides of the aisle will be a challenge.
“The foundation is there to get this done,” he said.
The chairman said the Department of Defense (DoD) does not have an excess amount of time, or resources, and any handicap to their funding will exacerbate the challenges the services currently face.
“We don’t have the luxury of excess resources. We don’t have the luxury of time from concept to operation,” Wittman said. “We have to simplify things on the acquisition side. The world we live in today is a different world that existed in the past.”
Saying the Navy needs to continue to modernize, Wittman noted that it will not get to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of a 350-ship Navy if it does not maintain the ships it currently has and understand the costs associated with it. There currently are 308 ships in the fleet.
Courtney said it will take a generational effort to boost the fleet to 350 ships, noting both Democrats and Republicans would have to work together over an extended period of time to support funding measurers.
“With the right strategy — and the right effort — you can do almost the near impossible,” he said.
In the interim, there is a learning curve for new members of Congress on naval issues, but getting them to understand the readiness and maintenance crises the department would face under another CR has been a particular challenge.
“I just don’t think you can adequately cover all the shortfalls across DoD with a CR,” Wittman said.