In a bipartisan letter to Senate leaders, U.S. Senator Susan Collins and twelve of her colleagues, demand that adequate full year funding for the Department of Defense be included in any legislative measure that would continue to fund the federal government beyond the expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (CR).
Senator Collins, who is a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, had led the effort to provide full year funding for the Defense Department. She has repeatedly urged the Senate Majority Leader to immediately bring the defense funding bill to the Senate floor for consideration, and she has introduced two amendments to legislation considered on the Senate floor that would fund the Department of Defense for the remainder of the fiscal year, through September 30th.
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) that is funding the government expires on Friday, April 8, and Senator Collins agrees with top Pentagon officials who have repeatedly testified before Congress that continuing to operate the Defense Department under a CR, or at significantly reduced spending, could severely impact military operations and readiness, service members and their families, and could threaten jobs in defense-related industries.
"I have received testimony from every senior leader of our military services in the past month - and they all have the same message: our military faces a crisis if the Department has to continue to operate under a CR," Senator Collins said.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Libya last week, Secretary Gates reiterated his concern regarding the continuing CR and our military commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Japan:
"We are in serious budget trouble. The ongoing C.R. and significant budget cuts at a time when we are asked to do so much, I think, brings this issue home. And, frankly, I need help from the Congress. The Department of Defense needs help from the Congress. If we're going to do all these things, we need the resources to do them. And under this continuing resolution, we're canceling ship deployments because we don't have the money to pay for 'em."
Today's letter is also signed by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jonny Isakson (R-GA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME).
The text of the letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is as follows:
Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell:
As we approach the April 8th expiration of the sixth continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011, we urge you to include adequate full-year funding for the Department of Defense in the next legislative funding measure. It is crucial that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need as we engage in military operations on three separate fronts.
The leadership of the military services has warned repeatedly that a year-long CR at reduced funding levels could negatively affect their troops' effectiveness and efficiency. Secretary Gates testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that operating under a CR is damaging procurement and research programs and hurting readiness by requiring the deferral or cancellation of maintenance and reducing or eliminating training.
Operating under a CR not only hurts readiness, it is inefficient and expensive. For example, the Navy will not be able to take advantage of cost savings in the Virginia Class Submarine program or the efficiencies gained by procuring two DDG-51s in one year, and the Army and the Air Force will have to pay the costs associated with restarting programs they have stopped work on because the CR has frozen funding levels.
Operating under a CR results in hardship for our troops and their families as they face short-notice reassignments and their living facilities await much-needed repairs and upgrades.
Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus has stated that a CR will weaken the industrial base and jeopardize more than 10,000 private sector jobs at shipyards, factories, and Navy and Marine Corps facilities across the country.
In no time in recent memory has Congress failed to pass a defense appropriations bill. Even when a year-long CR funded the government during fiscal year 2007, Congress passed a separate bill providing for the Department of Defense. With troops in harm's way, now is not the time to break with that precedent.