The outgoing Air Force chief of staff described the current budget environment as uncertain due to the likelihood that Congress relies on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the Defense Department after Oct. 1 and the possibility that the 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps are fully imposed again in fiscal 2018.
A return to spending at Budget Control Act levels would make it very difficult for the Air Force to keep its modernization programs on track, Gen. Mark Welsh told Defense News.
“We go back to a sequester budget, everything is going to be affected,” said Welsh, who is slated to retire on July 1.
The problem with a CR is the Air Force would be unable to start new programs or change production quantities. Welsh also pointed to the change in presidential administrations as a factor behind his uncertainty about the budget moving forward.
“I assume there’s going to be some turmoil here as the administration changes,” Welsh said. “Over the next fiscal year I think there will be a little bit more turmoil. There will probably be a little bit of instability. I hope that’s not the case.”
Although a short-term CR is not optimal, it is unlikely to have a “substantial impact” on Air Force programs, Todd Harrison, a budget expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense News.
“There aren’t a lot of new program starts or increases in production planned for FY ’17,” he said. “And a relatively short CR like this has become standard operating procedure,” Harrison said. Lawmakers likely will pass a stopgap spending measure that lasts until December, he added.