Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin implored Capitol Hill leadership in a Nov. 28 letter to approve a full-year, whole of government funding bill as the clock ticks closer to Dec. 16 when Federal government funding is set to run out, and warned of potentially dire consequences if funding remains uncertain.

“Failure to do so will result in significant harm to our people and our programs and would cause harm to our national security and our competitiveness,” Austin said. “We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our back three, four, five or six months of every fiscal year.”

The Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed to MeriTalk that Austin sent the letter on Monday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and each of their Republican counterparts.

As fiscal year (FY) 2022 ended on Sept. 30, Congress passed a short-term spending bill to fund agencies through Dec. 16. But Austin said he worries that lawmakers will pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund agencies into the new year to avoid a government shutdown instead of passing a completed budget for FY2023.

The CR funding the government since Sept. 30, he said, has forced the Pentagon to operate with at least $3 billion less per month than the amount President Joe Biden requested for the FY2023 budget.

Austin warned that one of the most significant drawbacks of a CR is stunting DoD’s progress with research and development, and holding back planned procurements for FY2023.

“An ongoing CR will cause delays in all three legs of the nuclear triad when we have no schedule margin left to give,” the Defense Secretary said. “It is also slowing our progress in space, delaying necessary new investments in our industrial base and getting ship construction on contract.”

He also noted the adverse impacts that a CR will have on American military personnel and their families, like impairing hiring and delaying investments in child care centers.

Finally, Austin reminded members of Congress that the new National Defense Strategy cannot be implemented without benefit of funding under the FY2023 budget. He also said that broader national security needs also depend on critical activities and investments in the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice, and Health and Human Services, “just to name a few.”

Also awaiting action by Congress is the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), another must-pass item whose currently uncertain status is making DoD nervous. Lawmakers have approved an NDAA on time for the past 61 years.

“I strongly urge you to act decisively – now – to meet America’s needs and support our forces who support all of us, by immediately reaching a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on full-year 2023 appropriations for DoD and all agencies,” Austin wrote. “As I have said before, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing you can do for our Nation’s defense.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.