DoD on the Hill

House Appropriations Committee approves FY2016 Military Construction funding

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

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Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved FY2016 funding for Military Construction (included in the total Department of Defense (DoD) budget request) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The MilCon/VA bill and the Energy appropriations bill were the first FY2016 appropriations bills to advance in the House. Noting the beginning of the appropriations season in the House, HAC chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) said this will be, I think, the earliest time in history, at least since 1974, that we will have marked up bills this early.” Rogers said he hopes both bills will be on the House floor next week.

The Military Construction portion of the MilCon/VA bill provides $7.151 billion for military construction projects, family housing, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), and the NATO Security Investment Program. This amount is $1.3 billion less than the president’s request.

However, $532 million of this reduction was funded in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriation (Navy & Marine Corps $244 million, Air Force $75 million, and Defense-wide accounts $213 million). Therefore, the actual cut to requested military construction programs was $755 million.

The HAC bill would reduce the DoD funding request for active component military construction projects by $389 million (excluding funds transferred to OCO) and Guard and Reserve accounts by $39 million. The HAC bill would fully fund the request for Family Housing projects and existing Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The bill would also add $30 for the NATO Security Investment Program to support fixed and mobile infrastructure projects for NATO operations and $30 million to the Army for the construction of access roads.

The HAC bill also would rescind $386.5 million from prior appropriations Acts. 

The HAC took no action on the administration’s request to authorize another BRAC round as such an authorization is not under the committee’s jurisdiction.

Congress returns to complete work on FY2016 budget resolution

Monday, April 13th, 2015

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Congress returns this week from its spring recess ready to complete action on the FY2016 Budget Resolution. The House and Senate passed their versions last month and must reconcile the differences.

The annual budget resolution sets revenue and spending targets for the tax writing and appropriations committees so they can begin work on the president’s budget request.  This is an internal congressional procedure and therefore the passed budget resolution is not sent to the president for approval. 

The House and Senate bills set the FY2016 total federal spending level at $3.8 trillion, reach a balanced budget in 10 years, and repeal Obamacare. The House bill would cut $5.5 billion in spending from the current policy level for FY2016-25, while the Senate proposes to reduce spending by $5.1 trillion over the next ten years. The difference is primarily due to the Senate’s smaller cut to nondefense discretionary spending.

The House and Senate bills do not change the requirement to return to sequestration in FY2016, even though most in Congress continue to decry effects of the across-the-board cuts, and keep discretionary spending caps in place.

For defense, both bills keep baseline national defense (DoD plus other defense-related spending such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear program) funding at the sequester level of $523 billion.

However, both bills propose to increase funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) as a way of increasing defense while staying within the statutory cap levels, because OCO funding is considered emergency spending. The House includes $96 billion for OCO, while the Senate bill set OCO funding at $89 billion. This $7 billion difference must be resolved in conference.

But, the $96 billion OCO in the House bill includes $6 billion OCO funding for the State Department. The $89 billion in the Senate bill (according to reports) does not include any OCO funding for State. So, it appears that there is only a $1 billion difference between the House and Senate bills for DoD, which should make resolution on DoD relatively easy.

There is one complicating factor to the House and Senate scheme to add defense funding while staying within the statutory caps. There is a Senate point of order against the bill that says any proposal to increase OCO spending above the requested level of $50.9 billion needs 60 votes in the Senate. With Republicans having only 54 Senate seats, six Democrats would have to join all Republicans to overrule the point of order to approve the higher defense amount. So, conferees will have to address this point of order issue.

April 15 is the target date for completing the budget resolution so the appropriations committees can begin crafting the 12 appropriations bills. House Budget Committee chair Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Senate Budget Committee chair Mike Enzi (R-WY) issued a joint press release last week in which they said they “look forward to the House-Senate beginning its work as early as next week, followed by congressional passage of a joint concurrent budget resolution for our nation.” It is unlikely that House and Senate conferees can compete their work by Wednesday, but there will be strong push by Republican leaders to pass a resolution so House appropriators can mark up some bills before memorial Day.

House committee schedules FY2016 Defense Authorization bill markup

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

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The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will begin to mark up the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill on Wednesday, April 22.

The HASC press release announced that subcommittee markups and the full committee markup will be streamed live on the committee’s YouTube Channel.

The HASC markup schedule calls for two subcommittees to mark up on Wednesday April 22: the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee (2:30 PM) and the Readiness Subcommittee (4:30 PM). On Thursday, April 23 the remaining four subcommittee will mark: the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee (8:30 AM); the Military Personnel Subcommittee (9:30 AM); the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee (10:30 AM); and the Strategic Forces Subcommittee (12:00 NOON).

The full committee markup is scheduled for the following week on Wednesday April 29 at 10:00 AM. HASC chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) hopes to take the bill to the House floor in early May.

As in past years, subcommittees are expected to release draft markups on the HASC website before the subcommittee meets.

House defense committee chair proposes acquisition system reforms

Friday, March 27th, 2015

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House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) introduced a bill containing the first in a series of broad ranging defense acquisition reforms.

During a year-long effort, the committee engaged stakeholders from the Department of Defense (DoD), industry, and Congress to develop proposals for long-term reform of the defense acquisition system. Thornberry called his proposal “the first step on what I expect to be many years of focused work to improve our flawed defense acquisition system.”

The broken acquisition system is contributing to the loss of our military’s technological edge,” Thornberry charged. He said the current system is slow, cumbersome, and often many years late in delivering equipment that frequently under performs and is costly to maintain.

The proposed “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act” would streamline the process, improve accountability, and eliminate outdated regulations, thereby begin “to get some of that edge back,” Thornberry stressed. The bill’s provisions promote a system that is “proactive, agile, transparent, and innovative.”

To be proactive, the bill proposes to empower acquisition officials by removing barriers so that officers can pursue acquisition as a profession. It would provide a “Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund” and expedited hiring authority for hiring and training the acquisition workforce. The bill also would give acquisition program managers greater flexibility to address programmatic risk and enable the selection of contract types that best meet program objectives with an appropriate level of risk.

The bill promotes quick program adjustments by allowing program managers to focus on oversight, engineering, and risk management. The proposal would consolidate reporting requirements, streamline the approval process, and identify key considerations that are addressed during the life of the program. The bill also would eliminate “non-productive Departmental legal review” in some cases.

The bill promotes transparency by supporting government and industry communication that is clear and open and the production of auditable financial management statements.

The proposed reform bill would remove barriers that inhibit companies from seeking defense business or proposing new ideas. The bill would promote the use of value engineering to encourage contractors to reduce costs and share savings. The Mentor-protégé Program would be made permanent to improve the linkage small and large defense contractors. Also, the bill would make the Small Business Innovative Research Program permanent to be used “more broadly by the military services and defense agencies.”

Thornberry said the reforms will be considered for inclusion in the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill, which the HASC will take up next month. Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) co-sponsored Thornberry’s proposals.

Thornberry said he released his recommendations of what he called a “discussion draft” of the bill now because he wanted feedback from the stakeholders. “We listened to a lot of folks as we drafted this bill, and we want to hear from them again before we work to make it law,” he said.

Proposed House Budget Resolution would cut spending by $5.5 trillion, increase defense, but not end sequestration

Friday, March 20th, 2015

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A budget resolution approved by the House Budget Committee (HBC) yesterday would cut $5.5 trillion from federal budgets over the next 10 years and balance the budget by 2024.

HBC Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) called the resolution “a strong step forward in addressing the nation’s fiscal and economic challenges.”

The annual budget resolution, often referred to as a “congressional budget blueprint,” sets revenue and appropriations targets for the tax writing and appropriations committees, so they can begin work on the president’s budget request.  This is an internal congressional procedure, so the passed budget resolution is not sent to the president for approval.

The HBC plan, “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,” would set the FY2016 total federal spending level at $3.8 trillion, about $140 billion less than current policy. Of the $5.5 trillion reduction from 2016 to 2025, $2.2 trillion would come from changes to the health care law and $2.1 trillion from Medicare, Medicaid, and other mandatory programs. The remaining reduction would result from cuts to discretionary programs (-$539 billion) and lower interest payments on the debt ($-798 billion).

The HBC proposal would not end sequestration.

The budget discretionary budget authority for national defense (DoD plus other defense-related spending such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear program) would increase by $387 billion from FY2017 to FY2025, while cutting non-defense budgets by $759 billion over the same period.

In FY2016, the proposed budget would keep defense at the sequester level of $523 billion, but would set funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at $90 billion, about $40 billion above the request. The president’s national defense base budget request was $561 billion, $38 billion above the cap.

The committee’s budget resolution would also set up a “Defense Readiness and Modernization Fund” that could be used to increase defense funding is a way that would be considered “deficit-neutral,” just like funding for the OCO account.

House pro-defense supporters urged the committee to approve an amendment adding more defense funds. This concerned so-called “deficit hawks” who are troubled about resulting increases to the deficit, unless they were offset by cuts elsewhere. The House leadership, worried that this standoff could imperil passage of the budget resolution on the house floor, brokered a deal that the Rules Committee would accept an amendment to increase OCO funding to $96 billion, without requiring any offsets, and would not require offsets for the $20 billion “Defense Readiness and Modernization Fund.”

The full House is expected to consider the budget resolution next week

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