They’re all interconnected, right? The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) set a cap on defense and non-defense spending through 2021. Two Bipartisan Budget Acts in the past several years minimized the effects of the BCA, but the budget caps never really left. We’re already halfway through the 2017 fiscal year, and there is still no finalized budget for the rest of the year. The government has been running on Continuing Resolutions (CRs) during this time, meaning spending is stuck at FY16 levels. The current CR is set to expire at the end of this month, and if a budget resolution is not agreed to by that time, a government shutdown may be triggered. Members of the House of Representatives left on Thursday for a 2-1/2 week recess, which means they’ll only have four legislative days upon their return to pass an appropriations (spending) bill. In order to avoid a shutdown, Congress may plan to use a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The voices of reason in this messy web may be the military service chiefs, who testified before Congress on Wednesday about the deeply negative effects of running the military on a CR. Without having concrete budgets in place, the service chiefs argue, the country is putting itself at risk. Readiness, training and force size are all negatively affected when the services do not have firm budget numbers in place for more than a few months at a time. The unified message of the service chiefs is that proper funding mechanisms must be put in place now.
Without agreement on an appropriations funding bill, we may be headed for a shutdown on April 28.