What’s it like having an approved Defense Budget?

Finally! It looks like a coming boom for defense buyers and defense contractors, it looks like we have a defense budget approved. This month has brought both a solution to the long-lasting defense spending freeze with the Administration’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Hearing all these headlines and news bites in passing can be confusing to know what’s what.

Nicole Ogrysko at Federal News Radio did a great job breaking down the two separate issues and explaining a bit about what it means for troops, the president’s goals and what changes we may see to the military in the coming years.

I see two immediate pieces of good news related to the current year’s budget, which is the two-year spending agreement Congress reached on Feb. 9 that ended this year’s very brief second government shutdown.

Continuing Resolution ends!

First, the continuing resolution is over, which means the military has purchasing power and more clarity within its financial operating systems and programs. There’s predictability and expectation. More and more often, budget deals have failed leaving the military (and other agencies of the government) struggling to grow and move forward. Certain purchases and troop expansions are now authorized and can go on as scheduled.

Second, the two-year spending agreement defense budget from Congress also lifted restrictions of the 2011 Budget Control Act, also commonly referred to as sequestration. That means the budget that’s passed is the actual budget, and the spending restrictions of sequestration will not limit what’s called for.

Since its inception, the Budget Control Act has capped spending at certain limits, so despite what the passed budget or continuing resolution allotted, it couldn’t breach this amount. This, among other issues, is what led to a lot of the downsizing we’ve seen in the past five years.

Position of Primacy

Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke positively of the two-year agreement, telling Defense News it allows the American military return to a “position of primacy.” Mattis said he plans to use this funding stability to fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to “rebuild” the military, not just through numbers, but in capability.

Looking ahead to the 2019 defense budget, expansion of all kinds is taking priority. To achieve these goals, Congress will have to continue to work together and stave off sequestration beyond 2020, as the current spending agreement doesn’t affect anything beyond that time period.

Lawmakers will also need to step up and approve budgets before a continuing resolution becomes necessary again—that means getting a spending bill to the president before Oct. 1. Another will stifle any progress made by this two-year reprieve and return the military to this uncomfortable holding pattern that causes our nation to fall behind its peers.

Only in stability can the military achieve true growth and expand its capabilities. And the foundation of stability comes from predictable funding.

It’s also worth noting that the 2019 proposed defense budget again calls for another more than 2 percent pay increase for troops. That’s a 2.6 percent increase on top of the 2.4 percent increase Trump authorized through executive order in December. As I’ve said before, pay raises are important to boosting troop morale and retaining the best in our military.

CSM (Ret.) Dan Elder,
US Army, Retired