DoD on the Hill

Senate passes and sends FY2015 Appropriations and Defense Authorization bills to president

Monday, December 15th, 2014

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The Senate has passed and sent to the president the FY2015 Appropriations bill that funds the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and 10 other bills (including Military Construction /VA) through the end of FY2015. The bill also funds the Homeland Security Appropriations bill under a continuing resolution (CR) through February 27, 20015.

The Senate passed the $1.013 trillion government funding bill 56-40 Saturday after defeating moves by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) designed to stop the bill from proceeding to a final vote. The House had passed the bill 219-206 on Thursday. The president indicated he will sign the bill, thus averting a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledging the compromise cooperation between Democrats and Republicans needed to finish the bill said “this bill is not perfect, but we can all be proud that we voted tonight to make America more secure, put our government on more sound footing than when this Congress began.”

Funding in the bill for DoD base appropriations, less Military Construction, totals almost $490.2 billion, about $1 billion less than the request. Military Construction appropriations funding (in the MilCon/VA bill) is $6.6 billion, essentially the same as the request.The bill also provides $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The bill provides funding for a 1% percent military pay raise. But, it freezes freeze pay for general and flag officers and makes a 1 percent reduction in the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH). The conference agreement adds about $200 million to the Defense Commissary Agency funding request to maintain operations.

The legislation includes about $850 million to refuel the USS George Washington, denying the administration’s plan to defer a decision on refueling until the FY2016 budget. The bill also funds continued operations of A-10 aircraft and continues operations of the full Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). The administration had proposed retiring both of these aircraft.

The Senate also approved (89-11) the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill, which the House passed earlier this month. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015,” named after the Senate and House Armed Services Committee chairmen, authorizes $495.9 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and $17.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program.  The bill authorizes an additional $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The legislation authorizes a 1 percent military pay raise, requested by the president. However, the bill rejects proposed changes to TRICARE fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-pays, but does authorize a $3 increase in pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled in non-military treatment facilities by non-Active Duty TRICARE beneficiaries.

The authorization bill rejects the administration-proposed 5 percent cut to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), opting instead for a 1 percent reduction in BAH. The bill also rejects another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2017 that was urged by the administration. In recent years Congress has repeatedly rejected administration requests for another BRAC round.

The bill also denies the administration proposal to defer a decision on refueling the USS George Washington, providing almost $800 million for support and advance planning for refueling the aircraft carrier, prohibits the Air Force from retiring or preparing to retire the A-10 aircraft fleet in FY2015, and stops the Air Force from retiring any Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) in FY2015.

In a major organizational move, the conference agreement creates an Under Secretary of Defense for Business Management and Information that combines the positions of Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Before adjourning this week, the Senate will move to complete action on a number of pending nominations proposed by the president and legislation extending for one year tax provisions set to expire at the end of the year. These so-called “tax extenders” include research and development tax credits (highly popular with business), state and local sales tax deductions, tax credits for energy efficient homes, and bonus depreciation tax credits. 

House passes FY2015 appropriations for DoD and 10 other bills; CR for Homeland Security bill

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

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With the Continuing Resolution (CR) on FY2015 funding set to expire at midnight, the House passed a $1.013 trillion FY 2015 Appropriations bill that funds the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and 10 other bills (including Military Construction /VA) through the end of FY2015.

The Homeland Security Appropriations bill, subject to intense debate after the president announced an executive order on immigration, is funded in the bill under a CR through February 27, 2017. This action will allow the Republican-controlled 114th Congress time to address concerns about the immigration order.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill tomorrow. To avert a shutdown until the Senate acts both the House and Senate approved a two-day CR.

This bill is being referred to as a CRomnibus appropriations bill because it is a combination of full-year appropriations for 11 appropriations bills and a two and a half month CR for the Homeland Security bill.

After a day of high drama that included a razor thin vote (214-212) approving the rule to proceed to a final vote and an almost seven hour recess, the House passed H.R. 83 by 219-206. Fifty seven Democrats joined 162 Republicans in supporting the bill. Defections from the bill included Republicans unhappy that the bill did not more strongly rebuke the president’s order on immigration and Democrats who were outraged over provisions that changed the Dodd-Frank law regarding banks trading financial derivatives and relaxed restrictions on campaign contributions by individuals.

The final bill was the result of intense conference negotiations between the House and Senate Appropriations committees. The House had passed its version of the bill in June and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill in July.

In a joint statement House Appropriations Committee (HAC) chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Senate Appropriations chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said “this bill fulfills our constitutional duty to fund the government, preventing damage from shutdown politics that are bad for the economy, cost jobs and hurt middle class families. While not everyone got everything they wanted, such compromises must be made in a divided government.”

Funding in the bill for DoD base appropriations, less Military Construction, totals almost $490.2 billion, about $1 billion less than the request. Military Construction appropriations funding (in the MilCoN/VA bill) is $6.6 billion, essentially the same as the request.The bill provides $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The bill provides funding for a 1% percent military pay raise as proposed by the president, but freezes freeze pay for general and flag officers. It also allows for a 1 percent reduction in the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) growth (the administration proposed a 5 percent cut). The conference agreement adds about $200 million to the Defense Commissary Agency funding request to maintain operations and block the president’s proposed cut to the commissary subsidy.

The legislation includes about $850 million to refuel the USS George Washington, denying the administration’s plan to defer a decision on refueling until the FY2016 budget. The bill also funds continued operations of A-10 aircraft, blocking the administration proposal to retire the A-10 fleet, and continues operations of the full Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), thwarting the administration’s plan to retire some AWACS aircraft in FY2015.

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding in the bill totals $161.7 billion, more than $4 billion below the administration’s request. The bill includes finding for a 1 percent civilian pay raise and provides funding increases for facility sustainment (+$900 million) and readiness, depot maintenance, and base operating support shortfalls (+$1.2 billion). Conferees cut $270 million or 2 percent from the information technologies O&M budget request.

Procurement funding in the bill totals $93.8 billion, more than $4 billion higher than the request. Included in the bill’s procurement funding are: two attack submarines and three Littoral Combat Ships; 38 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) aircraft and 7 KC-46A tankers; and 15 EA-18G Growlers. The legislation appropriates $1.2 billion for National Guard and Reserve equipment not requested by the administration.

The bill includes $63.7 billion for research and development, slightly more than the request. Among the programs receiving R&D funding are: the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV); the long-range strike bomber; and the KC-46 tanker. The conferees also included $225 million for the Rapid Innovation Fund to support small businesses provide “leap-ahead” technologies. The bill also adds $1.3 billion for medical research (including about $100 million for the Ebola crisis) with a special focus on Peer-Reviewed Medical Research and Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research.

The conferees essentially continued language from the FY2014 appropriations bill to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the United States or its territories or the modification or acquisition of facilities used to house detainees and eliminated the 5 percent discount for Military Exchanges sales of tobacco and tobacco-related products.

House passes conferenced FY2015 Defense Authorization bill

Friday, December 5th, 2014

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The House passed (300-119) the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill yesterday with bipartisan support.

The “Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015,” named after the Senate and House Armed Services Committee chairmen, was agreed to in conference this week. The House had passed its version of the bill in May. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version in May, but the full Senate had not acted on the bill.

The agreed-to legislation authorizes $495.9 billion in base discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and $17.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program.  The bill authorizes an additional $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The bill authorizes the president’s request for a 1 percent military pay raise and accepts the president’s proposal to freeze pay for General and Flag officers in FY2015. However, the bill rejects proposed changes to TRICARE, but does authorizes a $3 increase in pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled in non-military treatment facilities by non-Active Duty TRICARE beneficiaries. The bill also provides an additional $100 million in subsidy funding for the commissary system, restoring the administration proposed reduction

The conferees reduced the administration-proposed 5 percent cut to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to 1 percent. The bill also rejects another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2017 that was urged by the administration.

The bill also rejects other savings proposals made by the administration. The House-Senate bill denies the administration proposal to defer a decision on refueling the USS George Washington until the FY2016 budget. Almost $800 million is provided in FY2015 for support and advance planning for refueling the aircraft carrier.

The bill also prohibits the Air Force from retiring or preparing to retire the A-10 aircraft fleet in FY2015 and stops the Air Force from retiring any Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) in FY2015.

The legislation authorizes $1.25 billion for National Guard and Reserve equipment (not requested by the administration) and blocks the Army’s plan to move AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to active components in FY2015.

In a major organizational move, the conference agreement creates an Under Secretary of Defense for Business Management and Information that combines the positions of Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO). Currently, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, supported by the DCMO and staff, assumes the CMO roles and responsibilities.

The Senate will consider the bill next week.

House committee leaders selected for 114th Congress

Friday, November 21st, 2014

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House Republicans and Democrats have selected Committee chairmen and Ranking Members for the 114th Congress, which will convene in January 2015. Boehner and Pelosi announced the committee leadership selections this week. The Committees of most interest to defense include:

Appropriations: Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) remains as chair of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) stays on as the Ranking Democrat. Rogers has been pushing for an Omnibus Appropriations bill to finalize action on FY2015 Appropriations in the lame-duck session.

Armed Services: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) replaces Rep. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who will retire at the end of this session, as chair of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). Rep. Adam Smith (R-WA) remains as Ranking Minority member. Thornberry is currently the HASC vice-chairman and has served on the House Intelligence Committee.

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) replaces Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) who was an unrelenting investigator of what he considered government wrongdoing. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) remains as Ranking Democrat on the Committee. Chaffetz has been highly critical of recent problems at the U.S. Secret Service and is expected to take a hard look at federal workforce issues.

Homeland Security: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) stay on as chair and Ranking Democrat.

Veterans Affairs: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) remains as chairman and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) becomes the new Ranking Democrat on the committee. Brown replaces Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) who is retiring.

Foreign Affairs: Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) will remain as chair and Ranking of the House Committee Foreign Affairs

Budget Committee: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) becomes the new chair of the House Budget Committee replacing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) who will become chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) stays on as Ranking Democrat.

With the Republican takeover of the Senate next year many current committee Ranking Republicans will become committee chairs. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is expected to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is expected to head the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). Formal announcements for Senate Committee leadership positions have not yet been made.

FY2015 appropriations, Defense Authorization, and other legislation await action in “lame duck” congressional session

Friday, November 14th, 2014

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Congress has returned this week to complete legislative action in the shadow of last week’s election.  When the 114th Congress convenes in January, Republicans will control both houses. Republicans will gain control of the Senate with an increase of least 8 seats.  Republicans will increase their House majority by at least 12 seats, with five district elections yet to be decided.

But, for the remainder of the 113th Congress, Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate. So, with about four weeks until the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires and less than six weeks until the end of the year, the question is: What will the “lame duck” congress accomplish among a compelling list of unfinished business?

FY2015 appropriations bills:  Most agree that the most pressing priority is completing action on FY2015 appropriations to keep the government running.  The House has passed seven appropriations bills (including DoD and Military Construction/VA) and approved another four through the full House Appropriations Committee. The full Senate has not considered a single appropriations bill, but the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) has approved eight bills (including DoD and Military Construction/VA). Congress will not complete all FY2015 appropriations bills before the CR runs out and leaders of both parties have pledged to avoid a government shutdown. So, Congress could either pass one Omnibus appropriations bill including all 12 bills or a few “mini-bus” bills (for example, DoD, MilCon/VA, and Homeland Security) and wrap the remaining bills in one final FY2015.appropriations bill. Time constraints make one Omnibus bill the most likely result.

FY2015 DoD Appropriations:  The House passed the FY2015 DoD appropriations bill in June and the full Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version in July. The House bill provides $491 billion, $200 million above the request, for the base DoD budget (excluding Military Construction, which the House passed in the VA/MilCon bill). The House bill also includes $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the same amount the president requested as a placeholder. The SAC bill provides $490 billion for DoD base budget appropriations, $1 billion below the request, and $58.3 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). While the White House has expressed displeasure with the House’s denial of the administration’s cost savings and reform proposals, it did not threaten a presidential veto of the bill.

FY2015 Defense Authorization: The House passed the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill in May and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has approved its version of the bill. But no action has been taken in the full Senate. There are a number of significant issues that have to be resolved before final agreement, particularly, the size of the military pay raise (House authorizes a 1, 8 percent raise, while the SASC approves the president’s 1 percent request), refueling the USS George Washington, and sanctions against Iran. In addition, both bills authorize some military special pays, multiyear buys, and military construction contracts which would expire unless Congress passes and the president signs a FY2015 Defense Authorization bill.

U.S. military operations against ISIL: The president is expected to send Congress a resolution to authorize the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Congressional action could come in the form of an amendment to the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill. However, because this will prove to be a heated debate, Congress could begin to debate a new AUMF now, but not vote until January. The president and defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are also pressing Congress to approve the recently-submitted budget amendment to provide funding and the authority to train and equip rebels fighting ISIL. Congress will likely consider this request when finalizing the FY2015 DoD Appropriations bill.

Other legislation: Over 50 so-called tax extenders will expire at the end of the year. They include research and development tax credits (highly popular with business), state and local sales tax deductions, tax credits for energy efficient homes, and bonus depreciation tax credits.  Earlier, the House passed bills permanently extending some credits (including the R&D tax credit), while the Senate Finance Committee approved extending almost all tax provisions for two years. Although there is strong sentiment among some members to kill many of the provisions, given the time crunch and the popularity of the provisions Congress will probably extend most of them.

The president has said he will take executive action on immigration before the end of the year. Congressional opponents argue that the president must involve Congress. Some want to include a provision in an omnibus appropriations bill that would prohibit the president from spending funds to implement such executive action. The president has hinted he might veto such a bill, which could revive the possibility of a government shutdown. House and Senate Republican leaders are strongly opposed to the president’s impending executive action, but dismiss the idea of forcing a government shutdown over this issue.

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