On October 1, 2023, the Federal Government entered Fiscal Year 2024 and this year has initially been funded with a continuing resolution. A continuing resolution represents a temporary funding mechanism enacted by Congress, ensuring that federal agencies continue to operate when a formal appropriations bill hasn’t been passed. For defense contractors, this stopgap funding approach can have profound implications. It affects the immediate landscape of contractual obligations and opportunities and underscores the necessity for adaptability in a sector where predictability is paramount.


The Basics of a Continuing Resolution

Continuing Resolution

A continuing resolution ensures federal agencies receive funding to temporarily maintain their operations. This is utilized when a new fiscal year begins, yet an appropriations bill, which would typically provide agencies with updated funding, hasn’t been signed into law. Essentially, the continuing resolution continues the previous year’s appropriations at the same levels or occasionally with minor adjustments. Its primary purpose is to prevent a government shutdown and ensure the uninterrupted operation of federal services while lawmakers deliberate on the finer details of the budget.

Historically this was created as a temporary stopgap. As the federal budget grew more complex over the decades, so did the challenges of reaching timely agreements on appropriations. Disagreements between the legislative chambers or with the executive branch often led to impasses. To prevent the undesired consequences of a total government shutdown — which would halt critical services and impact millions — Congress introduced the practice of passing continuing resolutions as a temporary fix, buying time for further budget negotiations. However, this has become common practice in the U.S., as an appropriations bill deadline has not been met since 1997 and more than 130 continuing resolutions have been passed since then.


The Impact of Continuing Resolutions on Defense Funding

Continuing resolutions, while necessary for the uninterrupted functioning of the government, can pose challenges for the Department of Defense. At the broadest level, it means that the DoD must operate assuming the previous year’s budget. This allows little room for new initiatives or adjustments that address emerging threats or changing strategic priorities. The funding stagnation limits the Pentagon’s ability to start new programs, make timely purchases, or adapt to evolving global circumstances. Additionally, multi-year projects can be held up due to a continuing resolution since there’s no guarantee of funding beyond the resolution’s timeframe.

Whether short-term or long-term, the duration of a continuing resolution further nuances its impact on defense funding. Short-term solutions, which might last weeks to a few months, create an atmosphere of uncertainty, making it challenging for defense contractors to plan, secure resources, or commit to long-term projects. On the other hand, longer-term resolutions, spanning several months or close to an entire fiscal year, offer a tad more predictability but still constrain the DoD’s ability to adjust to new realities or shift funding priorities. While the immediate disruptions might seem less pronounced with long-term continuing resolution, the compounding effects on innovation, preparedness, and strategic adaptability can be substantial.


Challenges Faced by Defense Contractors

Defense contractors often bear the brunt of the disruptions brought about by continuing resolutions. One of the most palpable challenges is the uncertainty in planning and budgeting. With funding levels anchored to prior fiscal year numbers and it remaining unclear when a full-year appropriation might be passed, contractors are often left confused, making it difficult to strategize and allocate resources effectively. This atmosphere of uncertainty leads to delays in the commencement of new programs. Further, multi-year contracts, essential for many defense projects, become treacherous terrains. Without assured funding beyond the duration of the continuing resolution, these long-term initiatives risk stalling or facing restructuring.

Operational challenges also manifest in various ways. Immediate procurement activities might suffer, and future projects may encounter disruptions. The perplexity of navigating such rapid funding changes, especially unanticipated ones, can divert crucial resources from core activities. Burstiness becomes another notable concern for a contractor’s workflow. “Burstiness” refers to the sporadic work resulting from unpredictable funding streams, leading to peaks and troughs in activity levels. Such unpredictability can severely impact labor management, strain manufacturing processes, and disrupt delivery timelines, emphasizing the intricate balancing act defense contractors must perform during periods governed by continuing resolutions.


Opportunities Amidst the Challenges

While continuing resolutions undeniably present myriad challenges for defense contractors, they also reveal unique opportunities for those agile enough to navigate them. Flexible contractors can unearth niches amid the shifting sands of funding and priorities. These niches often emerge from immediate needs or gaps left by less adaptive competitors, allowing agile businesses to position themselves advantageously. In these times, the value of efficient platforms, such as Odyssey DCS, becomes even more distinct. Platforms like Odyssey can stabilize forces in a volatile environment by streamlining workflow processes and ensuring seamless interactions with the DoD’s purchasing and payment agencies.

Likewise, the importance of leveraging real-time data and analytics cannot be overstated. More than ever, defense contractors need to base their decisions on accurate, timely information. By leveraging the power of analytics, agile contractors can anticipate potential disruptions, adjust strategies on the fly, and identify emerging opportunities despite budgetary constraints. While continuing resolutions might be seen as roadblocks, they can also serve as catalysts, prompting businesses to innovate, adapt, and ultimately thrive.


Preparing for the Post-Continuing Resolution Era

Once a continuing resolution period ends and definitive funding is in place, defense contractors must be primed to navigate the aftermath. One significant consideration is the prediction and preparation for pent-up demand. As the continuing resolution constraints lift, there could be a surge (burstiness) in orders and requests, a wave of accumulated needs previously held back. This influx demands logistical adeptness and a keen understanding of supply chain intricacies to ensure timely delivery and service.

To navigate this era successfully, defense contractors must double down on ensuring compliance and facilitating smooth transactions with the DoD. This involves meticulous record-keeping, accurate invoicing, and establishing clear communication channels. This is again where leveraging platforms like Odyssey becomes invaluable. With our emphasis on eliminating manual data entry, ensuring organizational compliance, and promoting on-time payment receipts, we offer a robust solution, streamlining the complexities of DoD commerce.



The complexities introduced by continuing resolutions underscore the need for agility and forward-thinking. However, challenges also pave the way for innovation and evolution. As we look to the future, it becomes evident that embracing robust platforms and strategies becomes not just an option but a necessity. Tools like Odyssey DCS, with the capability to streamline DoD commerce processes, epitomize the kind of solutions that can mitigate the unpredictability of continuing resolution-driven scenarios.

To see how we can help, or to schedule a demo, contact us today!