Budget brownout

We hesitate to beat a dead horse—and we're grateful the third government shutdown has been averted—but we think putting off decisions is a poor way to manage the disagreement.

Congress has funded the high-visibility programs whose shutdown caused a public furor and left the others with enough money to pay staff and creep along—but not much else.

We realize this fight is a matter of principle for both sides. However, we continue to believe that holding government programs hostage until the fall election is the wrong way to settle the dispute.

Now we face the prospect of many critical government systems being financially starved. The delays will not be without cost. Systems in development may be jeopardized. Those already in place may lose upgrades. And procurements in process—some under way for a year or more—may be derailed because the technology has changed or the agencies do not have the funds to obligate. A few agencies are trying to cope by lowering the minimum purchasing levels dramatically to permit them to get a contract in place.

The whole approach flies in the face of the concept of good business practices that both sides are preaching. While Congress and the administration are arguing the philosophy of government, they should deal with the reality of it.


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