Political News

Pentagon chief: Don't extend stopgap funding through May

Posted 4:03 p.m. Tuesday
Updated 4:05 p.m. Tuesday

— Defense Secretary Ash Carter Tuesday warned Republican leaders in Congress that plans to operate the Pentagon on autopilot through as late as May are "unprecedented and unacceptable."

Carter said such plans would freeze the sprawling department's budget for too long and harm national security.

GOP leaders are negotiating over the duration of a stopgap spending measure to keep the Pentagon and most of the rest of the government operating after the current temporary funding bill expires next Friday.

House Republicans initially said the next stopgap measure, called a "CR" in Washington parlance, would run through March 31 but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants a later date because the Senate will be so busy with a crush of business under the incoming Trump administration.

"A short-term CR is bad enough, but a CR through May means DoD would have to operate under its constraints for two-thirds of the fiscal year," Carter said. "This is unprecedented and unacceptable, especially when we have so many troops operating in harm's way."

McConnell had initially pressed to wrap up the remaining 11 appropriations bills — totaling more than $1 trillion — by the end of this year. But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., bowed to the wishes of the incoming administration and demands by conservatives to punt the unfinished legislation into next year. Some Republicans believe they'll get a better deal next year from Trump than they would from President Barack Obama — including more Pentagon funding and policy "riders" to reverse Obama regulations — but top aides say the legislative outcomes probably won't be much different.

Carter also warned of delays in procurement of new weapons such as transport and attack helicopters, a new in-flight tanker for the Air Force, and a next-generation nuclear submarine.

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