WASHINGTON — The federal government is prohibited from operating without funding.
So, lawmakers repeatedly rely upon stop-gap legislation called "continuing resolutions" to temporarily avoid a shutdown.
The maneuver keeps the government open but freezes spending.
Now, it appears the nation is careening towards another CR in just a matter of weeks.
The Department of Defense has started 12 of the last 13 fiscal years under a continuing resolution, meaning all military funding is frozen at the prior years' levels.
During those times, the DOD operated under CRs ranging from 76 to 216 days, with the average being 112 days. Last year's CR lasted five and a half months.
Defense officials have stated publicly that delays in knowing when and how much funding will ultimately be available for the fiscal year hampers the military services' ability to accomplish key mission requirements.
"First, if you want us to be more competitive with our adversaries, it's going to make us less so. If you want us to be more agile, a CR has the opposite effect," said Undersecretary of Defense Mike McCord in testimony before Congress earlier this year.
But, it seems increasingly likely that history is about to repeat itself yet again.
When the House of Representatives returns from its August recess after Labor Day, there will be just 13 working days before the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District) said it's "a foregone conclusion" at this point that there will have to be another CR, which he said would be bad news.
"If you were to design a way not to run a business or not to run a government, it would be a continuing resolution," he said.
Peter Shaw, a retired Tidewater Community College business professor, agreed.
"If you've got a very important guided missile cruiser that's parked unnecessarily in a drydock when it's expected to be out and moving in the next fiscal year and can't because of a continuing resolution, you're threatening national security. I mean, there's no question," he sad.
And, if there's one thing that's even worse than a continuing resolution, it's a government shutdown. The last one lasted for 35 days -- from December 2018 to January 2019.
And it cost the national economy an estimated $11 billion in lost output, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.