Congress passes FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Yesterday, the Senate passed (72-26) the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The House had [previously approved the bill (359-67) so it now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it before the short-term Continuing Resolution runs out on Saturday.

The $1.1 trillion Omnibus (almost 1,600 pages) covers all 12 FY2014 appropriations bills, avoids a government shutdown, and provides relief from automatic rescissions.

For defense, the Omnibus provides $496 billion for total DoD appropriations in FY2014, about $32 billion below the request.

Funding for DoD base appropriations, less Military Construction, totals almost $487 billion, some $30.5 billion less than the request. However, the program impact of this reduction is somewhat overstated. Program funding in the Military Service Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts totaling $8.5 billion was transferred to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account and funded there.

Military Construction appropriations funding is $9.8 billion, $1.2 billion less than the request. Reductions to construction projects account for $756 million of the total cut. Another $380 million reduction is made to unobligated balances.

The bill provides $85.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), $5.7 billion higher than the request. Most of this change comes from the $8.5 billion transferred from the base budget offset by a $3 billion cut to the request for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.

The bill provides funding for a one percent across-the-board pay raise for military and civilian white-collar personnel that was provided in the budget agreement and requested by the president. The bill also approves a one percent pay raise for blue-collar employees, which was not in the budget agreement.

The bill overturns part of a provision in the budget agreement that reduced the cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments by one percent for pensions of military retirees under age 62 (so-called working age retirees). This provision had been strongly criticized by many members and veterans groups. In the Omnibus bill, Congress exempts medically retired servicemembers and recipients of survivor benefit plan annuities from this reduction. After passage, members opposed to the COLA reduction vowed to work to restore full COLAs for all military retirees.

In a statement from the Pentagon, DoD press secretary RADM John Kirby said the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill “provides DoD with necessary funding for critical investments and modernization, an increase in pay and benefits, continued training, equipment maintenance and funding that supports military operations in Afghanistan.” He pointed out that the appropriations bill does reduce sequestration cuts, for which Secretary Hagel and the Military Chiefs had worked hard to achieve.

But, he cautioned that while the legislation does give DoD some stability, DoD still faces difficult challenges. “We are still absorbing nearly $30 billion over the next 10 years that were not accounted for in the presidential budget submission, he said.

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