Dod Appropriationsby Senator Susan M. Collins
Posted on 2013-02-28
COLLINS. Madam President, I rise to discuss an amendment I have
filed to the bills dealing with sequestration. I am pleased that
Senator King has joined me as a cosponsor.
Our amendment is the fiscal year 2013 Department of Defense appropriations bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a bipartisan vote of 30 to 0 on August 2, 2012.
There is no doubt we must find a way to avoid the meat-ax approach to budgeting that will occur under sequestration.
At the same time, we must recognize that a continuing resolution also presents real challenges for those trying to carry out the necessary functions of the Federal Government, including providing for the national defense. Continuing resolutions have become far too routine. This familiarity, however, should not blind us from the harm these stop-gap measures cause to the effective and efficient functioning of government.
A yearlong continuing resolution would be just as devastating as sequestration. I am not alone in that judgment. After a New York Times editorial that claimed the Pentagon can easily absorb the cuts of sequestration, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter wrote the following in a letter published on February 27, 2013: Good management is undermined by sequestration and by something that your editorial does not mention but that is as much of a problem--the fact that we have no new appropriations bills and are living under last year's law. These two factors together lead to dangerous absurdities like having to curtail soldiers' training, ships' sailing, and airplanes' flying. Our military will therefore not be fully ready to meet contingencies other than Afghanistan.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the service chiefs have also repeatedly warned that the effects of sequestration or a yearlong continuing resolution will be devastating to our national security and defense industrial base.
On January 14, 2013, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the heads of each military service signed a letter warning that ``the readiness of our Armed Forces is at a tipping point'' and the unfolding budget conditions, including the continuing resolution, are causing this readiness crisis.
Regardless of what happens with sequestration, a continuing resolution presents two major problems.
First, the readiness of our military will be put at risk unless the Department of Defense is able to transfer funds from investment accounts into readiness accounts. Under the continuing resolution, the Department cannot do this. That is why the letter signed by seven four- star generals said the current budget uncertainty will ``inevitably lead to a hollow force.'' Second, a yearlong continuing resolution prevents the Pentagon from performing three responsibilities crucial for national security: increasing production rates for existing weapons, starting new programs not previously funded the year before, and signing multiyear procurement contracts that provide significant savings while reducing the unit cost for taxpayers.
There are several examples of these multiyear procurement contracts that cannot move forward without an appropriations bill. For example, Congress authorized the Navy to procure 10 destroyers during the next 5 years in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The Navy has the bids for these ships in hand and the Navy is [[Page S1007]] ready to sign, but the Navy cannot sign these contracts without an appropriations bill. We risk throwing away savings on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars if we do not enact the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill.
The ramifications of inaction on a full-year appropriations bill are not limited to the 6 months remaining in this fiscal year. Failing to enact a full-year appropriations bill that allows new starts and cost- saving multiyear procurement contracts will jeopardize the long-term stability in the shipbuilding industrial base that the Congress and the Navy have worked long and hard to preserve.
When I questioned Deputy Secretary Carter on February 14, 2013, at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about what the continuing resolution means for shipbuilding, he testified that ``we're in the absurd position where we're five months into the fiscal year and we have the authority to build the ships that we built last year and no authority to build the ships that we plan to build this year. That's crazy. . . And that has nothing to do with sequester, by the way, that's the C.R.'' The existing continuing resolution expires on March 27. That deadline is just 4 weeks away, but each week that passes puts our military increasingly at risk and makes it less prepared.
I know the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its ranking member, Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby, share my concern that continuing resolutions are not the way to govern. I am also encouraged about reports that the House of Representatives may consider a bill next week which includes a full-year defense and a full-year veterans affairs and military construction budget.
At least as far back as 1974, Congress has never failed to pass a Department of Defense appropriations bill. Now is not the time, with troops in the field and the looming threat of sequestration, to establish a dangerous precedent of denying our military services the support they need to accomplish the mission we have asked them to perform.
This year's continuing resolution hurts our military readiness now and, even more, in the future.
It is time to show the American people that we can act responsibly before the very last minute. The men and women who serve our country are performing every task we have asked of them. It is long overdue for the Congress to do the same, so I urge the Senate to act to replace the current CR with a full-year Department of Defense appropriations bill as our amendment would provide.