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2020 budget is casualty of the federal government shutdown

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Almost five months after the start of the fiscal year, after three continuing resolutions and one 35-day partial government shutdown, the last of the fiscal 2019 appropriations bills have been passed and signed by the president.

Now the focus turns to the fiscal 2020 budget.

Initially expected to be released the first week of February, the government shutdown left many workers from the White House Office of Management and Budget furloughed, causing a six-week delay in delivery.

The budget will be dropped in two phases, starting with highlights and toplines for federal agencies on March 11 and the rest of the details the week of March 18, according to OMB guidance.

Since the Defense Department’s funding bill was passed and signed into law before the end of the fiscal year, DoD was largely spared from the government shutdown drama.

However, the delay in rolling out the 2020 budget increases the likelihood that negotiations will drag past Oct. 1 and create an all too familiar scenario where DoD is forced to operate under continuing resolutions. Add a Republican-controlled Senate and a House controlled by Democrats to the mix, and the prospect increases even more.

At a recent appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper identified timely and stable budgets as the most important thing Congress can provide to help the military.

“I can’t foot stomp that enough, about how important it was to have a timely budget,” Esper said. “We really thank Congress, not just for the funding we got last year, but for the timeliness.

“Look, I talk to members from both sides of the Hill and both parties, and they all understand it, and they share that view. They want to help as well, make sure we have a timely budget that’s sufficient.”

The budget is expected to include many cost-cutting reforms, including program eliminations and reductions, but also an overall increase in defense spending and a reduction in non-defense spending when compared with the fiscal 2019 budget.

In a Feb. 4 interview with Congressional Quarterly, Esper said the 2020 budget “will mark the beginning of a significant shift in our resources to ensure we can fight and win in accordance with the National Defense Strategy.”

He was referring to a budget-shifting effort he undertook with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley that reviewed more than 500 programs, looking for places where money could be diverted to modernization priorities.

The goal of the shift is to find about $25 billion to apply to modernization over the next five years in increments of $4 billion to $6 billion a year.

Julie Rudowski is AUSA’s Government Affairs Assistant Director.