Military: So Much Money, So Little Time

Washington Report

(February 20, 2018) The Pentagon has too much money to spend in the time it has to spend it. That’s its problem now that Congress has agreed on a two-year spending deal for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next one that provides $700 billion for defense for the current fiscal year, according to The Washington Examiner.

The Pentagon is required to spend its operations and maintenance funds by the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, only seven months from now. That figure was $253 billion in the previous year’s budget. Congressional appropriators have yet to fund the budget that lawmakers passed earlier this month. The government is operating now on the fifth continuing resolution for fiscal 2018, which provides no new money. That continuing resolution runs out March 23.

Army Secretary Mark Esper told the newspaper he was talking with Congress about relaxing the deadline for spending the money.

“Allow me to spend O&M money for more than one fiscal year,” he said last week. “Allow me to spend it for two fiscal years. That way I can smooth that curve out. I can make better use of the taxpayers’ dollars. I can ensure more soldiers are trained and well-trained, and I think overall we can deliver a much better product.”

Gen. Glenn Walters, the assistant Marine Corps commandant, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, “We have a year’s worth of money add in ’18 and five months to spend it. It might help if the appropriators can give us some flexibility so we can spend ’18 money in ’19 and feather in the plan and give us some authorities to . . . move money around where we’re executing.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said lawmakers would take the shortened fiscal year into consideration.

“Hopefully, people have been planning for this kind of plus-up, but you don’t want to just flush money through the system,” he told the newspaper. “You’re really going to have to sit down with the Pentagon and talk about, OK, this is for a year; you’re going to have six months.”