Crunch Time

By Thomas Duffy / March 1, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale are testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today on the trouble the Defense Department will face if Congress approves a full-year continuing resolution or, in the worst case, completely shuts down government operations.

The current continuing resolution ends at midnight Friday.

Lynn told the subcommittee that a yearlong continuing resolution "is not a workable approach." The continuing resolution funds the government at fiscal year 2010 levels. For DOD, that would $23 billion less than the $549 billion base budget the department asked for in FY-11, he said.

The department would have to play "a shell game" by moving money around in various accounts and by paring back on training and operations, Lynn said. The Army would have to cut the three Brigade Combat Teams that coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy would cut back on flying hours and steaming days, and the Air Force would have to cut its flying hours by 10 percent.

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) asked Lynn what would happen if the government were shut down. Lynn said the department has a plan for that possibility, noting that the most immediate problem would be how to pay both military and civilian personnel. The first payday looming would be in mid-March, he said.

Hale told the subcommittee that the department would have to pull off "a brutal reprogramming" if the government were shut down and paychecks had to be cut. "We'd have to look at acquisition programs," Hale said -- and those programs would end being cut or canceled outright.

Today marks the start of the sixth month the Pentagon has been operating under a continuing resolution. "We can hold our breath so long and we are starting to turn blue," Hale said.