Budget limbo: Nearly 100 new Air Force programs on hold until Congress passes budget
Service officials urge companies to “tell your story” about what lawmakers’ inability to pass a 2024 budget would mean for their projects.
A slew of new U.S. Air Force and Space Force programs will remain grounded if Congress does not pass a fiscal 2024 budget, a top service official said.
“This would stop 89 new starts [and] 19 modernization initiatives focused specifically on countering [People’s Republic of China] threats,” said Kristyn Jones, who is performing the duties of the Air Force undersecretary.
The U.S. government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution, which freezes most spending at 2023 levels and bars the military from starting new programs. The measure expires in February. The House and Senate have both passed a compromise version of the annual defense authorization bill, which is now headed to President Biden’s desk. Congress must still pass the annual spending bills before the Pentagon can stop operating under a continuing resolution.
Failing to pass the spending bills by January would result in the Air Force losing $13 billion in “buying power,” Jones said Thursday at the AFCEA NOVA Air Force IT Day. That number represents a sum of funds the Air Force had hoped to receive from Congress.
Congress struck a deal earlier this year that limits the defense budget to $886 billion in fiscal 2024 and $895 billion in 2025. The Air Force’s topline would be reduced to fiscal 2023 levels “minus one percent” for fiscal 2024 if lawmakers do not pass a full-year appropriation. However, Congress could work around the mandatory budget cut by approving additional supplemental funding.
The $13 billion “equates to roughly the same percentage decrease we experienced during sequestration in FY-13. And after 10 years, we still haven't fully recovered from the impacts of sequestration,” Jones said.
The cuts would become permanent in April 2024 if the budget is not passed, said Joe McDade, the Air Force’s assistant deputy chief of staff, plans and programs. Since some department spending has to be protected, these cuts would be spread across fewer accounts, he said at the conference.
“We're going to fence military pay, we’re going to fence a whole host of other things, so that $13 billion hit in the second quarter of this fiscal year will be spread over fairly new accounts,” McDade said.
A continuing resolution also delays the Air Force’s collaborative combat aircraft program by at least another year and cancels $2.8 billion in Space Force research and development growth, Jones said.
Jones urged companies in the audience to “tell your story” about how a lack of a budget hurts their government programs.
“We cannot fight with one hand tied behind our back and we cannot properly compete in this area of great power competition with only a partial deck,” she said.