WASHINGTON — A US government shutdown has once again been averted, with the Senate approving a House-led temporary funding bill that kicks the fiscal 2024 budget can down the road.
The bill, which President Joe Biden has said he will sign, keeps the government open through a pair of continuing resolutions (CRs), budget tools that fund the government at previous fiscal year levels. The budgets for the first wave of non-defense agencies will need to be addressed in January, with the Pentagon up in February.
While keeping the government open is a win for the Pentagon, the agreement does not include any of the $106 billion supplemental spending Biden requested for Ukraine, Israel and other defense priorities, including $3.4 billion for American shipyards. That request appears to have been too politically difficult to push through a Republican-led House that is increasingly skeptical of supporting Ukraine.
On Wednesday, White House spokesperson John Kirby bemoaned the failure to fund Ukraine especially.
“You know, it’s an active battle front and our ability to continue to support Ukraine is increasingly at jeopardy here if we don’t get this supplemental funding,” he said. “It’s important for Ukraine.”
While a CR is better than a shutdown, defense officials this week were clear that what they truly need is a real budget.
William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said Tuesday that a CR still means people “get laid off” and will impact military readiness in multiple ways, from halting new weapon programs to training inside combatant commands.
“Depending on the ruleset … you only get [a] percentage of last year’s budget, and you get it in increments,” he said at a Politico event. “Number two, you can’t do new starts, you can surge, and everything basically slows down.”
Even if the White House is able to sign the FY24 budget by January, an “optimistic” timeframe, he said the money will not flow down to the combatant commands until around the May timeframe because of all the processes in place.
“So what do you do? You cut down on training and flying hours, you’re never gonna get those flying hours back,” LaPlante added.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, speaking at the same event, added that operating under a six-month CR means that $6 billion dollars in Army programs will be “delayed or disruptive.” (Under the agreement, the service will be under a five-month CR, not a six-month one.)
“For example, there are … eight to 10 new procurement starts that will be delayed as a result of a CR,” she also said at the Politico event. “We have, similarly, a half dozen programs where we’d like to increase production rates, and we won’t be able to do that in a timely fashion… [and] we have about 22 different [military construction] MILCON projects, including family housing, that will be delayed under a CR.”