DoD on the Hill

Carter urges Congress to avoid long-term CR for FY2017

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

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With Congress appearing ready to consider a long-term continuing resolution (CR) well into next year (possibly until May 2017), Secretary of Defense Ash Carter warned of the detrimental effects on U.S. national security of such action.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Carter called the prospect of operating under a CR for nearly two-thirds of the fiscal year “unprecedented and unacceptable.”  He stressed that DoD has never operated under a long-term CR during a transition to a new administration.

The longer the length of the CR the more damage will be done to DoD’s capabilities because DoD will be “locked into last year’s budget and last year’s priorities,” Carter said.  He cited the most harm will be resulting shortfalls in operations and munitions accounts, especially those accounts funding counterterrorism operations. 

Carter emphasized that operating under a CR means that DOD will not have the authority to begin new programs, increase program production rates, or start multi-year procurement projects.  He said in FY2017 DOD will need 57 new starts and 87 increases in program production rates.  Delaying these actions during a CR would undercut important programs (e.g., KC-46 Tanker, helicopter buys, and replacement of the Ohio submarine).

Carter said if Congress can’t complete action on the FY2017 DoD appropriations bill by the time the current CR runs out on December 9, it should at least keep the CR as short as possible to allow time to finish the bill.

FY2017 Military Construction/VA appropriations bill stands alone as Congress seen likely to extend CR into next year

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

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With the end of the current FY2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) set to run out on December 9, Congress appears likely to pass an extension until March 2017.

Congressional Republicans, who now control both houses of Congress seem ready to defer action on the final 11 remaining FY2017 appropriations bills until March 2017.  There had been movement in the House to propose an FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill.  But, last week House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) announced that his committee will start work on a CR that would keep the government operating until March 31, 2017.

“While I’m disappointed that the Congress is not going to be able to complete our annual funding work this year, I am extremely hopeful that the new Congress and the new Administration will finish these bills.” Rogers said.  Rogers also said he hoped “regular order” would return to the appropriations process next year “so that the damaging process of Continuing Resolutions will no longer be necessary.”

Some Senate republicans, including Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pushed back against the House movement towards extending the CR into next year.  McCain has been working with his House counterparts to try to complete a compromise version of the FY2017 Defense Authorization bill.  However, without a completed FY2017 DoD Appropriations bill, final action on the defends policy bill will likely also be deferred until next year.  Congressional Democrats have been pushing for a series of “minibus” appropriations bills, batching the remaining 11 bills.

If that the CR is extended into next year, the FY2017 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would be the only appropriations bill to become law this year.  The FY2017 MilCon/VA bill was passed and signed into law in September along with the CR extending FY2017 government funding until December 9.

The Military Construction portion of the FY2017 MilCon/VA Appropriations Act provides $7.75 billion for military construction projects, family housing, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), and the NATO Security Investment Program. This amount is $280 million above the president’s request. The Act also funds $172 million in the Military Construction Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriation.

Funding for specific active and reserve component military construction projects in the Act is set at $5.7 billion.  In addition, the Act provides another $615 million in FY2017 for the Army ($41 million), Navy and Marine Corps ($316 million), Air Force ($150 million), Army national Guard ($67 million), Air National Guard ($11 million) and Army Reserve ($30 million) to be used for projects identified in unfunded priority lists identified by the military services and provided to Congress.

The Act fully funds the request for Family Housing projects ($1.3 billion) and the NATO Security Investment Program ($178 million) to support fixed and mobile infrastructure projects for NATO operations.  The DoD Base realignment and Closure Account is provided $240 million for cleanup and disposal of property under the four closure rounds already approvedThe Act also rescinds $283 million from prior military construction appropriations Acts.

President requests additional FY2017 funding for DoD operations against ISIL

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

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President Obama sent Congress a FY2017 budget amendment request last week that would provide $5.8 billion in additional Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).  This funding will support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East

The FY 2017 OCO amendment of $5.8 billion brings the FY 2017 total Department of Defense (DoD) OCO request to $64.6 billion.

Congressional defense oversight committees have been pressing the administration to submit a request for additional funding to support increased operations since the president announced this summer that 8.400 military personnel would stay in Afghanistan and because of the increased pace of operations against ISIL.

Almost 50 percent ($2.8 billion) of the total $5.8 billion budget amendment request would be for operations and force protection including:  special pays and subsistence for deployed personnel, operating tempo, communications, and deployment and redeployment costs.  Base and installations support costs and support for forces located in other parts of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) region account for 22 percent ($1.3 billion) of total costs.  Funding for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces Aviation Modernization program is 14 percent of the total ($0.8 billion). 

Other costs include: classified programs ($0.4 billion); Iraq Train and Equip Fund to support Kurdish Peshmerga forces ($0.3 billion); equipment and reset ($0.2 billion); and Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Fund ($0.1 billion).

Looking at the total request by operation, $3.4 billion would be for Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL (OFS) in Afghanistan.  These additional funds would support the higher troop level (8,400) approved by the president ($2.5 billion) and provide for Afghan aviation modernization ($.8 billion).

An additional $2.4 billion would be for Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) in Iraq to support about 5,500 U.S personnel (2,000 more budgeted) deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, support Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and address emergent force protection issues.  The additional forces approved by the president are providing training and advice to coalition partner security forces in efforts to defeat ISIL.  

The budget amendment would also provide $20 million for the incremental operational costs for Operation ODYSSEY LIGHTENING (OOL) in Libya.

Details of the DoD request are available on the DoD Comptroller’s website.

The president also requested an additional $5.8 billion for the State Department and the Agency for International Development (AID).  These funds would be used to “implement the diplomatic engagement, governance, and stabilization components” of the administration’s strategy against ISIL, and humanitarian aid for areas in Iraq liberated from ISIL control. 

Support included in this funding are: removal of unexploded ordnance; immediate stabilization needs in areas liberated from ISIL control; police training in the Northern Nigeria region and other areas affected by Boko Harem/ISIL; longer term stabilization needs for areas liberated from ISIL control; technical assistance to the transitional government in Libya and support for the political process in Yemen; humanitarian assistance; and increased embassy security.

Congress passes FY2017 CR to avert government shutdown

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

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Yesterday, Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the government running until December 9, 2016.  The House passed the CR (H.R. 5325) by a bipartisan vote of 342-85 as 170 Republicans and 172 Democrats voted for passage.  Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the CR 72-26. The president is expected to sign the bill before the fiscal year begins on Saturday.

Final negotiations on the CR were stalled because Senate Democrats would not let the bill proceed without funding for the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.  They argued that just as the proposed CR includes assistance for flood damage in Louisiana and other states, the bill should also include assistance for Flint.

With the Senate deadlock continuing, and the possibility of a government shutdown rising as the Friday midnight deadline approached, House Democrat and Republican leaders agreed to a deal that would provide assistance to Flint.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to include funding for Flint assistance in the Water Resources Development Act.  Flint assistance is already in the Senate version of the water resources bill.  Senate leaders accepted the deal and the Senate and House passed the CR.

Commenting on the bill, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said “a continuing resolution is a last resort. But, it is what we must do to fulfill our congressional responsibility to keep the lights on in our government.”  Senate Appropriations Committee chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) called the CR “a short-term fix that will allow the Senate and the House to complete work on the FY2017 appropriations bills later this year.”

The CR is included in the FY2017 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which funds DoD military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations for the full year.

The CR essentially allows agencies to fund FY2017 programs at the FY2016 level ($1.067 trillion for the total government and $74.1 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)) until December 9.  During the CR period, no new starts are permitted nor are programs allowed to increase production rates above the FY2016 rate

The bill also includes $1.1 billion in emergency funding for preventing the spread of the Zika virus, funding to address the opioid crisis, and $500 million in rebuilding and recovery grants to families and communities affected by recent flooding.

Congress will be in recess until after the November elections, returning for a “lame duck” session beginning on November 14.  They will work to pass 11 individual FY2017 appropriations bills, a series of “mini-buses that include some individual appropriations, or more likely an omnibus appropriations bill containing the 11 remaining appropriations bills.

Carter presses Congress to act on FY2017 DoD budget

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

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Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Ashton Carter urged Congress to end budget gridlock and achieve budget stability through bipartisanship.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Carter said budget stability is “critical in order for DoD and our people to address all the national security challenges we face.”

Carter identified three areas in the congressional review process that are of great concern to DoD: 1) budget gridlock and instability; 2) micromanagement; and 3) over-regulation.  But at this hearing, he concentrated on budget stability saying he would work with congress on micromanagement and over-regulation when Congress finalizes the FY2017 National Defense Authorization bill. Congress is not expected to complete action on the FY2017 Defense Authorization bill until after the election.

Carter told the committee that budget instability is “one of the biggest strategic risks” to DoD’s enterprise.  Such instability undercuts budget planning for warfighters and commanders, “baffles our friends and emboldens foes,” he said.

The inability for Congress to complete action on defense budget bills in a consistent, timely manner is “managerially and strategically unsound” and inhibits industry partners from operating efficiently on technology’s cutting edge, he stressed. 

Carter lamented the ongoing use of continuing resolutions to fund defense damages readiness and modernization, as the Joint Chiefs told the committee last week. “Even a short-term CR slows our shipbuilding program,” Carter cited as an example.

He argued that and the possible return to sequestration would devastate military readiness and modernization efforts.  Carter warned that the use of budget gimmickry, such as using Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to fund base budget requirements, could make the return to sequestration more likely.  Not only that, Carter said, it “harms readiness of our troops in order to buy more force structure than we can afford.” 

The House version of the FY2017 DoD Appropriations bill would provide only $42.9 billion through April 2017 and use $16 billion in OCO funding for base budget requirements.  The Senate Appropriations Committee bill would provide the full requested amount ($58.6 billion) for OCO.

Carter also rejected congressional proposals that would cut DoD investment priorities to fund programs that were unrequested or of lower priority.  These proposals could “seriously imperil our future strength,” he said. 

With a little over a week remaining until the beginning of FY2017, Carter pressed Congress to complete action on the FY2017 defense budget and avoid a lengthy continuing resolution.  Unless Congress acts, he said FY2017 will begin with another CR for the eighth year in a row.  Carter decried this as “a deplorable state of affairs.”

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