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U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

The Defense Department has had its spending disrupted by temporary spending bills for several years, and the continuing resolution lawmakers passed in late December leaves it stuck with the same problem. Now, about three months behind when Congress needed to pass a federal budget, it needs to determine how much funding the Pentagon will receive when the most recent CR expires this Friday.

Why it matters: Stopgap funding squeezes offices’ operations in the Pentagon across the board — it slows new acquisitions programs, it prevents new starts to programs, damages readiness, disrupts planned growth for programs, and disrupts implementing orders from the top of the DoD to change focus. But at this point Congress may be barreling towards another CR.

The impact:

  • A CR often prevents agencies from implementing or continuing a program that didn't have funding in the previous year. The DoD claims that 75 weapons programs have been delayed by the most recent CR's restrictions, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
  • Even if updates to programs or contracts are already awarded, a CR forces the Pentagon to halt all progress on those fronts. The Pentagon's comptroller, David Norquist, said the effect of that waste is that the DoD is "delayed in meeting the requirements of the combatant commanders." Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood told Axios: "The longer the CR, the more damaging it is."
  • The timing and pace of work is changed. CRs may put caps on expenditures for programs that tend to spend heavily in the first few months of the year, per the USNI. John Conger, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration, says CRs force the Pentagon to compress the bulk of its work into three quarters of the year, leaving one quarter of each year in a lull.
  • CRs make bulk buys and multiyear contracts more difficult to execute. CRs also lead to repetitive contracting when new funding is issued, time and money that could be spent elsewhere more efficiently.
  • Contingency plans have to be updated more frequently under CRs, since the Pentagon has to constantly assess how it will operate in the event of a shutdown.
  • In recent years, the Pentagon has been planning ahead for stopgap funding, Conger said, which has made CRs a little less disruptive — but that doesn't mean there's no damage at all.

How CRs work: They freeze funding at the previous fiscal year’s spending level, which is linked to a broader spending deal lawmakers forged in 2011 that set budget caps and included defense spending cuts.

  • Just two times since then has Congress reached two-year budget deals that raised those spending caps.

Where things stand on Capitol Hill:

  • "There's no way that we won't need another CR coming into the week," Rep. Tom Cole, a defense hawk who serves on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, told Axios. "Even if they reach an agreement then, it's still going to take time to actually write the final bills themselves and negotiate a final outcome."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last week much of the same. He said that an agreement on spending might take a little more time beyond the Jan. 19 deadline to fund the government, indicating Congress may need to craft another CR this week.
  • Some defense hawks are threatening to vote no on a CR if they don’t get a longer-term deal over spending caps, per Politico — a threat that raises the risk of a government shutdown. Cole said he doesn't see what good would come from that, however. "You might as well just help the Democrats obtain the majority," he said.
  • But the goal of a two-year deal to prevent spending cuts for the Pentagon that some Republicans are pushing for in spending deals ahead is "imminently achievable" once Congress agrees on the spending levels for one year, Cole said.
  • Democrats don’t want to increase military spending without increasing spending on domestic programs by the same amount, complicating those negotiations.

Don't forget: The amount of wiggle room Republicans have for pushing military spending is slim. The tax code overhaul that passed last month is set to raise the deficit by $1.5 trillion over a decade, which has made some lawmakers concerned about government spending adding to that figure.

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Report: U.S. calls for UN-led Afghan peace talks

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, D.C., in February. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a letter outlining a plan to accelerate peace talks with the Taliban that the U.S. is "considering" a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Afghan outlet TOLOnews first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: In the letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, also obtained by Western news outlets, Blinken expresses concern that the Taliban "could make rapid territorial gain" after an American military withdrawal, even with the continuation of U.S. financial aid, as he urges him to embrace his proposal.

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conversation with Oprah Winfrey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

Updated 7 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.