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Elaine McCusker, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, discusses budget predictability, continuing resolutions and modernization of budget structures

As the Pentagon looks to modernize defense capabilities, a stable and predictable budget may be an important way for decision makers to advance spending priorities. Elaine McCusker, former Acting Under Secretary of Defense, says continuing resolutions and an outdated budget structure are some hurdles the Defense Department currently faces.

“In some cases [the budget structure] is dating back to the fiscal year 1942 budget, which is not reflective to the way that programs are executing today,” McCusker, who is also a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said. “I would like to see us make improvements in a number of these areas to really help the department and the taxpayer harness the power of its money.”

Congress clearly plays a large role in this by passing a fiscal budget every year, but McCusker says the legislative body also needs to partner with DoD and the presidential administration to conduct proper oversight and to deliver government funding in a timely fashion. A continuing resolution, like the government operated under for the final few months of 2020, forces the Pentagon and other government agencies to lose both time and money.

“If you’re under continuing resolution, you may not be able to execute any [new projects or research] for six months. As a good planner you start to realize I’m going to be under continuing resolution so you don’t even plan to execute,” McCusker said. “You can’t be the best customer, or the smartest customer with the best plan, with that level of uncertainty.”

Congress passed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill, avoiding a government shutdown, just before the new year.

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