Joint Chiefs chairman warns Congress lack of full-year spending bill could add to recruiting woes

Punting on trying to pass a full year’s appropriations bill will undercut U.S. security moves in Asia and hurt military recruiting when the services are struggling to persuade enough people to enlist, the nation’s top general told lawmakers this week.

Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that a yearlong continuing resolution — essentially passing the previous fiscal year’s spending totals again without any adjustments — would create a $5.8 billion shortfall in military personnel funding and exacerbate the Pentagon’s recruiting woes. 

The Department of Defense “would be forced to delay service member moves and slow recruiting to offset the costs of the 5.2% pay raise for the military,” Gen. Brown wrote in his letter. 

A continuing resolution, known in Congress as a CR, extends the previous year’s funding levels but would prevent any new programs from starting. The Defense Department has never operated under a yearlong CR, and Gen. Brown said such a move would be “historically costly” to the nation’s armed services.

“A year-long CR would prevent the[[Defense Department]from executing numerous multi-year procurement contracts that are critical to meeting our requirements in the Indo-Pacific,” Gen. Brown said. “We cannot outpace our pacing challenge while under a CR.”

Gen. Brown has backing from some senior leaders on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. On Wednesday, she took to the Senate floor to press her colleagues not to settle for a continuing resolution to fund the Pentagon.

She said important national security investments remain on hold every day that the Defense Department is forced to operate under an outdated spending blueprint.

The Defense Department “has identified more than 330 new programs or production increases that cannot proceed,” Ms. Collins said. “This includes more than a dozen high-priority initiatives identified by the Air Force, $6 billion in Army transformation efforts, and multi-year procurement authority for Virginia-class submarines.”

A yearlong CR could also affect modernization efforts for the country’s nuclear triad, including a delay in the procurement of the B-21 Raider bomber, and would delay ship depot maintenance availability, Gen. Brown wrote.

The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act supports a total of $886 billion for national defense — $845 billion for the Pentagon and $32 billion for national security programs that fall within the Department of Energy.

“Under a year-long CR,[the[theDefense Department]could not award multi-year procurement contracts to increase production capacity or replenish inventories for munitions critical to [the Indo-Pacific region], including long-range anti-ship missiles, [precision rockets], Patriot air defense missiles, and a long-range version of the joint air-to-surface standoff missile,” Gen. Brown wrote.

A continuing resolution would also hurt the quality of life of the nation’s military personnel, such as failing to fully fund an expansion of prekindergarten programs for more than 4,000 children of service members and improving living conditions for sailors aboard ships, Ms. Collins said.

“Our nation’s security and our servicemen and women deserve better than a yearlong CR,” she said.

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