To the Editor:
Our Congresswoman Barbara Comstock did the right thing to vote last week for the budget. This prevented a governmental shutdown. While I do not want the federal government to fund non-profits, like Planned Parenthood, I also do not want government shutdowns. Single issues, like Planned Parenthood, can be resolved other ways; particularly this one since the Affordable Care Act covers women’s health care.
I experienced personally the repercussions of budgetary delays on military funding while assigned to a variety of Defense Department positions from 1996-2003. Fortunately, I did not experience an actual shutdown. However, I did experience the repercussions of the executive and legislative branches’ failure to agree on a budget within the normal twelve-month period. Disrupted budget cycles extend the time it takes for government agencies to get their authorized and appropriated funds; and shortens the time in which they can spend the money. If the government were your family, it is as if you are living payday to payday with no long term plans; billing cycles become shortened; and you do not know what your pay will be nor when and what you will be paid. In effect, there is no real budget. Disrupted budget cycles challenge the government staffs and operations, but government shutdowns are worst by magnitudes. Staffs must repeatedly rework issues (In 1998, I knew military officers who worked 7 weeks without a single day off to address budget changes. Budgets were continually reworked at the military staff level through the 4th of July. Normally, we started working the President’s Budget with legislative staffs immediately after the State of Union address and were completed by April. Congress authorized and appropriated the budget by the end of the summer. Now it seems the Executive Agencies do not start the process until mid-summer.) Delays negatively impact daily operations, maintenance of military equipment, and training. Long hours and multiple changes put governmental functions at risk of failure. Today’s longer budget delays result in greater risks to programs and ensure that needed changes are unnecessarily delayed. Until the budget is appropriated, everything is basically on hold. This delays starts, changes and cancellations of programs. This includes major military systems and seemingly simple administrative functions, like computer security (which can impact millions of Americans as the OPM cyber-attack.) This puts people at risk, contributes to programmatic overruns, and unnecessarily increases other governmental costs. At least when I experienced budgetary delays, it did not impact my pay nor my ability to get my job done. Today’s government employees face more difficult professional challenges compounded by the threat of no paycheck or a disruption to its receipt. They should be focused on their job; not seeking part-time employment in case there is a shutdown. The budgetary process no longer seems to be a definable or reliable process. This makes government appear dysfunctional. It abuses governmental employees’ dedication. It certainly must challenge their work ethic. This is easily resolved if both the executive and the legislative branches work within the defined process and deliver a timely budget. Both the executive and legislative branches play major roles in this. I applaud Congresswoman Comstock for her wisdom in trying to make the budgetary system work.