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Pentagon Official Underscores Imperative of On-Time Defense Appropriation

A senior Pentagon official stressed the importance today of on-time, full-year defense appropriations for maintaining national security.

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.
Michael J. McCord
Michael J. McCord, Defense Department’s comptroller and chief financial officer, testifies at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing on the fiscal 2024 budget request for the Department of Defense at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230511-D-TT977-0076

Michael J. McCord, undersecretary of defense, comptroller and chief financial officer, said operating under a series of stopgap spending measures year after year poses risks to the defense industrial base and to the military's ability to meet its mission throughout the globe.

"As we all know delayed funding means delayed contracting, means delays in training and means delays in delivery of new capabilities," he said during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington. 

The annual conference serves as a forum for defense officials, members of Congress and industry stakeholders to discuss defense priorities. 

Congress has yet to pass a defense budget for fiscal year 2024, which began in October and has instead funded the department through a series of continuing resolutions, or CRs, that keep year-over-year funding levels flat.

While operations can remain relatively constant under a continuing resolution, wider planning and modernization efforts are stymied by uncertainty over funding levels.

View of the U.S. Capitol dome, with waving American flag.
Capitol View
The Capitol, April 6, 2022.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Desmond Andrews
VIRIN: 220422-M-NZ953-1001

"National security is serious business, life-or-death business, and we need to act as if the collective "we" in this town treat that with the seriousness it deserves," McCord said. "To me, tolerating four months, five months, six months of CRs year after year after year doesn't meet that standard of seriousness." 

The current continuing resolution passed by Congress funds the majority of DOD through March 22.  

"If we get our bill, our funding bill on March 22, or by March 22 in two weeks, we will have been in CRs just under five years out of the last 15 cumulatively," McCord said.  

"So that's one-third of the time that we have been sitting in the waiting room instead of moving forward," he continued. "That's not a problem, as you know, that our adversaries have but it is a problem that we have and, indeed, it's a problem you have in the industrial base. And it's certainly not a strategy to compete and win with."

McCord said the funding delays reverberate throughout the globe. He said most visibly, those impacts are felt by Ukraine which continues to defend itself against Russia's ongoing invasion.

Last month, the Senate approved a supplemental funding measure that would include additional funds for Ukraine security assistance in addition to providing urgent support for Israel following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists along with humanitarian support for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

The measure also provides additional resources for U.S. Central Command to deter attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups and protect vessels operating in the Red Sea from attacks by Houthi rebels.

Service members stand next to pallets of military equipment staged near a cargo plane.
Loading Labor
Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load pallets of ammunition, bound for Ukraine, onto a commercial aircraft during a security assistance mission at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Jan. 20, 2023.
Photo By: Mauricio Campino, Air Force
VIRIN: 230120-F-DA916-1207N

The House has yet to pass the measure.  

"These delays have real world consequences, most visibly for our partners in Ukraine who are in a war today, running low on ammunition today," McCord said. "But we have interests — no less important, no less serious or sensitive to timely action around the globe. And so, these kinds of delays that we have, sadly, become a bit used to inject uncertainty and are detrimental both to our friends and allies around the globe."

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