With Congress feuding over President Barack Obama’s recent 2011 defense budget bill, military officials are saying failure to pass the bill is jeopardizing the military’s effort overseas and locally.
Defense secretary Robert Gates has called the lack of a spending bill a “crisis” and Pentagon officials say surveillance and attack drones in Afghanistan are threatened, as well as Army combat helicopters. This will also hurt thousands of defense-related jobs and construction projects across in the U.S., defense officials say.
The U.S. is currently operating under a stop-gap budget extension that is funding the federal government at the 2010 level. Republicans who control the House and Senate Republicans say they are using this opportunity to end dozens of programs and slash spending on numerous others, in order to rein in federal spending. The stop-gap bill will expire March 4 and, if extended, would cost the Pentagon $23 billion, Gates said.
The Army, Navy and Air Force say they would lose at least $26 billion overall if the spending level stays the same as 2010, compared with the 2011 budget request. The stop-gap bill would translate to “losses” of $13 billion for the Army, $7 billion for the Air Force and nearly $6 billion for the Navy.
“That we’re still operating under a continuing resolution is a nightmare” that affects every appropriations category, a senior Navy official said. “We’ve operated under a CR before, but never for this long, and certainly not by the time we’re submitting the next year’s budget.”
The potential cuts would translate into delays in major programs like the purchase of 24 hunter-killer Reaper drones for Afghanistan, construction of a new submarine, a naval destroyer and E-2D Hawkeye airborne command and control aircraft. The Air Force has deferred 36 construction projects due to the delayed bill and could delay an additional 93 said Air Force Maj. Gen Alfred Flowers, the deputy assistant secretary for the budget.
The Navy said the cuts have delayed some projects and could jeopardize about 90 construction projects in 13 states, costing up to 7,300 jobs. The Navy could cancel another 1,300 private sector jobs related to maintenance on ships, aircraft and engines. The Army said it couldn’t buy new Chinook transport helicopters that are used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Locally, the Army said it wouldn’t have enough money to refurbish Humvee utility vehicles and could shut down production at the Red River Army depot in Texas and the Letterkenny Army depot in Pennsylvania.