We’re not an Army family, but I’ve come to love the resources offered by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA.) Their website is a treasure trove of valuable information. The AUSA Legislative News Update 14 March 2011 addresses two hot topics: the federal budget and the Homeowner’s Assistance Program (HAP.)
First, AUSA addressed the hardships faced by the military as a result of the lack of a 2011 federal budget.
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III recently told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that DoD is losing billions of dollars by Congress’ failure to pass the department’s fiscal 2011 budget, putting readiness, modernization and efficiency initiatives at risk.
The department requested $549 billion for the fiscal 2011 budget, Lynn said, and requiring DoD to support operations under a continuing resolution until Sept. 30, when the budget year ends, will cause it to lose about $23 billion.
Lynn also said he’s concerned about the unknowns in the current budget environment. “Since we’ve never had a year-long continuing resolution for defense, and certainly never operated under one during a time of war, it’s the effects we haven’t thought of that I’m more worried about,” he said.
Unfortunately, Congress is no closer to passing a defense spending bill than they were on October 1, 2010, when the current fiscal year began.
Last week, neither side in the Senate could even muster the 60 votes necessary to pass competing legislation. A GOP-preferred bill that would have cut about $57.5 billion from the current budget was defeated by a vote of 44-56. All Democrats voted against the bill. Three of the Senate’s most conservative Republicans also voted against the measure, signaling that hard-line budget hawks may demand even deeper cuts.
The Democrats’ alternative plan, which would have cut $4.7 billion, was also rejected, 42-48, with 10 Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders voting against it.
With the government facing yet another shutdown at the end of this week, the House Republicans have released another short term bill that would fund the government until 8 April. Both Republican and Democratic leaders said they expect to clear the measure by the end of the week thus avoiding a government shut-down.
However, another short-term spending measure instead of a regular defense appropriations bill is creating huge problems for the Defense Department.
The cracks are already beginning to appear. At least two congressional committees have denied a Pentagon request to shift money between accounts to finance more than a dozen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance initiatives Defense Secretary Robert Gates says commanders in Afghanistan urgently require, citing restrictive rules under the stopgap spending measure that is funding the federal government.
Also, under a CR, new starts are not allowed and procurement accounts are frozen at 2010 levels. Some of the Services have frozen civilian hiring while others have delayed the issuance of permanent change-of-station orders to preserve greater funding flexibility. In addition, the services have ordered bases to issue only short-term contracts. These factors will drive up costs at a time when the Pentagon is working to trim billions of dollars from its budget.
I have to admit, much of this discusses on issues I hadn’t even considered. It is fascinating and yet disturbing at the same time.
The second part of the Legislative News Update states AUSA’s support for House Resolution 237, bill to amend the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP). H.R. 237 would create more flexibility in the dates used for HAP eligibility and could extend the benefits of the program to many more families.