Get off the dime and provide the dollars 

3/30/2011 12:00 AM 

Unfortunately what I wrote last month is still valid today. The Defense Department is still operating by means of a continuing resolution rather than appropriations legislation. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates very clearly outlined the results if our Congress fails to pass a 2011 defense appropriation measure and I want to share that with you.

Failure to pass a spending bill creates the possibility of funding the department under a year-long continuing resolution instead. The budget request for fiscal 2011 was $549 billion, and the continuing resolution would come in at $526 billion. Secretary Gates said it would represent a $23 billion cut in the defense budget in the current fiscal year. “It’s the worst of all possible kinds of reductions, in significant measure because it comes halfway through the fiscal year,” Gates said.

The current continuing resolution runs out April 8. Secretary Gates said that if lawmakers don’t pass the appropriations bill before that date, “this new Congress would be responsible for a cut that’s nearly twice the size of our fiscal ’12 proposal, and much, much more damaging.”

War funding will not be affected but Secretary Gates said that the department likely would use operations and maintenance accounts to compensate for the difference between budget legislation funding and that provided by a continuing resolution, through stretching out programs and making cuts in training and readiness.

“Frankly that’s how you hollow out a military, even in wartime,” he added. “It means fewer flying hours, fewer steaming days, cuts in training for home-stationed ground forces, cuts in maintenance, and so on.”

Forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan probably will be protected from the more draconian cuts, but forces reconstituting or on watch in other areas of the world will be affected, the secretary said. “Depending on how it comes out, as I say, it could have an impact on training across the entire force, on maintenance, on facilities maintenance,” he added.

Secretary Gates pledged to do all he can to ensure military families and wounded service members don’t bear any of the brunt.   “I will do everything in my power to protect all the money associated with family programs, and I mean that, I will protect the money associated with family programs and with wounded warriors, and so on.”

Secretary Gates questioned the seriousness of members of Congress who are up in arms about cuts to defense in fiscal 2012, but are ignoring the effect the continuing resolution will have on the services.

“In short, talk about not cutting defense in [fiscal 2012], as far as I'm concerned, is simply rhetoric without action on the [fiscal 2011] defense budget that’s already in front of the Congress,” he said.

The training cuts a continuing resolution would necessitate, would work against addressing readiness concerns the service chiefs and some lawmakers have expressed, the secretary noted.

“The irony in this would be one of the service chiefs’ concerns and one of the Congress’s concerns, the Armed Services Committees’ concerns, have been the lack of readiness for the full range of combat,” Gates said. “We are just now beginning to get the kind of dwell time [at home stations between deployments] that would allow us to carry out that kind of training.

“And it would be incredibly ironic,” he continued, “if now that we are able to do that kind of training, we are unable to do so for the rest of [fiscal 2011] because we don't have the money, because we end up on this continuing resolution.”

I have written a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass defense appropriations legislation immediately. Please add your voice to ours and send a letter of your own using our website. Go to www.ausa.org, click on “Legislative Action Center” at the bottom of the page. Put your zip code in the box entitled “Elected Officials and then click on the prepared letter “Enact 2011 Defense Appropriations Legislation Now”. Together we can get Congress off the dime and provide appropriations funding for our military personnel.