DoD on the Hill

Gen. Dunford confirmed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

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The Senate confirmed Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., USMC, to be the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) last week before adjourning for the summer recess. Dunford will replace Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Dunford was nominated by President Obama in May to replace current CJCS Gen. Martin Dempsey when his term ends later this year. At that time the president said Dunford “is one of our military’s most highly regarded strategic thinkers” and “is known and respected by our allies, members of Congress—on both sides of the aisle—and by colleagues across our government.”

Although Dunford’s confirmation was held up briefly by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) because she had not received information on sexual assaults in military installations. Even so, Gillibrand stressed that her hold was not about Dunford’s qualifications.

Gen. Dunford is currently the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, a position he has held since October 2014. Before becoming Commandant, Dunford was the Commander International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces – Afghanistan. He has served in joint assignments as Executive Assistant to the Vice-Chairman JCS, Chief of the Global and Multilateral Affairs Division (J5), and Vice Director for Operations (J3). Dunford has also commanded the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, the 5th Marine Regiment, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and Marine Forces Central Command.

The Senate also confirmed Gen. Paul J. Silva, USAF, to be the next Vice Chairman of the JCS. Gen. Selva will replace Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, Jr. whose term will also end soon. Gen. Selva is currently Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command. Prior to that, he served as Commander of the Air Mobility Command, Vice commander Pacific Air Forces, Commander Tanker Airlift Control Center, Commander 62nd Airlift Air Wing, and Commander 60th Operations Group.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter praised the confirmation of both Dunford and Selva. “Both have proven their mettle throughout their careers—from Gen. Dunford’s first years as an infantryman to his leadership both in Afghanistan and of the Marine Corps, and from General Selva’s early days as a pilot to his leadership of our military’s transportation command.” Carter said from the Pentagon.

House Committee approves FY2016 Coast Guard funding

Monday, July 20th, 2015

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Last week, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved FY2016 appropriations for the Coast Guard, which are included in the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.

This marks the 12th and final FY2016 appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee (HAC).

HAC chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) said, “all committee work on funding measures [for FY2016] –the first time this has happened since 2009.” The full House has passed six bills, (Commerce/Justice/State, DoD, Energy and Water, Legislative, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and Transportation/HUD).

The HAC approved $8.5 billion in FY2016 discretionary appropriations (to be appropriated by Congress) for the Coast Guard, $361 million more than the budget request. The bill also identifies $1.6 billion in Coast Guard mandatory spending, including retired pay. The HAC bill does not include Coast Guard funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Operating expenses totaling $6.9 billion are funded in the bill, about $77 million higher than the request.  The bill fully funds a military pay raise, but does not contain funding for a civilian pay raise. Funding would be increased by $14 million for critical enlistment and extension bonuses and $55 million for critical depot maintenance programs.

The bill would increase the request for acquisition, construction, and improvements by $284 million to $1.3 billion. The bill fully funds the request for six Fast Response Cutters (to replace the aging 110-foot patrol boat fleet) and adds $70.5 million for design and construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OSP), a high acquisition priority. An Additional $95 million is included to buy the 13th HC-130J, $82.7 million for Shore Facilities construction (aviation facilities +$31 million, ship lift facility +$20 million, and training center +$31.7 million), and $21 million for Coast Guard housing.

The HAC also proposes $20 million in rescissions from prior-year programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version of the FY2016 Homeland Security Appropriations bill last month. The SAC bill provides $8.7 billion for Coast Guard discretionary appropriations, $570 million above the request. The bill also includes OCO funding of $160 million for the Coast Guard.

FY2016 DoD Appropriations bill stalls in the Senate

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

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Senate Democrats moved last week to block consideration of the Senate Appropriations Committee-approved FY2016 DoD Appropriations bill on the Senate floor. A vote to proceed on the bill failed to gain the necessary 60 votes as 49 Republicans and only one Democrat, Sen. Donnelly (D-IN), voted yes. All 45 other voting Democrats voted against the motion to proceed.

Senate Democrat leaders have been urging Republicans for weeks to begin negotiating a new budget deal that changes sequestration (automatic across-the-board cuts). With no progress toward budget discussions, Democrats vowed to block action to proceed on any appropriations bill in the Senate until budget talks begin. The Defense bill was the first FY2016 appropriations bill to move forward in the Senate.

Democrats are responding to defense authorization and appropriations bills passed in the House and passed (defense authorization) or proposed (DoD appropriations) in the Senate that add about $38 billion in FY2016 defense base budget requirements to funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Republicans employed this mechanism to increase defense funding and get around defense funding caps set in the Budget Control Act.

Under these bills, sequestration levels would not change, resulting in probable cuts to nondefense budgets. Democrats and the White House are against any action that increases defense at the expense of nondefense programs. They want a long-term solution to sequestration, rather than a short-term increase in defense funding, with no such increase for nondefense programs.

To have a sound, secure homeland, we have to make sure that we take care not only of the Pentagon’s needs but the needs of the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) told the Senate during debate.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to bring the defense appropriations bill again, but has not set a time for doing so. To move the bill forward, But, McConnell would have to get at least six Democrats to vote for proceeding on the bill.

Meanwhile, the White House issued a strong rebuke of the proposed Senate FY2016 Defense Appropriations bill. In a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the president’s senior advisors would recommend a presidential veto if presented a bill that mirrored the Senate bill.

The SAP stated that using OCO funding to get around the budget caps “fails to provide a stable, multi-year budget on which defense planning and fiscal policy are based” and “ignores the long-term connection between national security and economic security and fails to account for vital national security functions carried out at non-defense agencies.”

The SAP also criticizes the bill for failing to approve “many of the needed force structure and weapons system reforms included in the President’s budget, and undermines a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.” The administration also strongly opposes provisions in the Senate appropriations bill that set “unwarranted restrictions regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”

Senate passes FY2016 Defense Authorization bill

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

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Last week the Senate passed the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill 71-25. Forty-nine Republicans and twenty-two Democrats voted for the bill. Two Republicans (Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul) joined twenty-three Democrats voting against the bill.

The House passed its version of the defense authorization bill in May 269-51.

The annual Defense Authorization bill authorizes force levels, programs, and policies (including military pay raises) for DoD budgets.  Appropriations bills provide actual funding (appropriations) for DoD.

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen, John McCain (R-AZ) said “the Senate’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote reflects the vital importance of this legislation to our men and women in uniform, especially at a time of growing threats to our national security.”

The Senate bill authorizes a total of $612 billion, including about $485 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) base budget and $89 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). A provision in the bill would allow DoD to transfer $38 billion from OCO to the base budget if defense and nondefense funding caps are revised in legislation.

Senate Democrats had threatened to block a final vote on the bill because it includes additional base budget funding in OCO to get around defense funding caps (set in the Budget Control Act) that could lead to cuts to nondefense programs. They are pushing for a long-term solution to sequestration, rather than a short-term increase in defense funding with no such increase for nondefense programs. However, a vote to cut off debate and move to final passage passed easily.

Both the White House and DoD have been highly critical of using OCO funding to increase defense. The White House has threatened to veto a final defense authorization bill that increases defense funding at the expense of nondefense programs or includes. Defense secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that this approach is “a road to nowhere” that risks the incremental funding approach for OCO.

The Senate bill approves the president’s request for a 1.3 percent military pay raise, lower than the 2.3 percent military raise included in the House-passed bill.

Like the House, the Senate bill rejects administration proposals to set enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries or consolidate the TRICARE program, retire the A-10 attack jet fleet, and to initiate another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

But, unlike the House, the Senate approves the president’s request to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and to use commissary surcharge funds to purchase operating supplies.

The FY2016 Defense Authorization bill now goes to a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences in the two bills.

Sen. McCain and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Rep Mac Thornberry have said they would move quickly to conference the bill and get it to the president.

I look forward to working closely with Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) as we proceed to conference. We share a commitment to defense reform, and there are broad areas of agreement and consensus in our two bills. I am hopeful we will be able to complete our work sometime next month, and send a good bill to the President’s desk,” McCain said.

McCain stressed that if passed this would be the 53rd consecutive defense authorization bill approved by Congress. 

House passes FY2016 DoD Appropriations bill

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

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Last week, the House passed the FY2016 DoD Appropriations bill, 278-149. The final vote included 43 Democrats voting for the bill and only 5 Republicans voting against passage.

The House bill would provide $490.2 billion for the DoD base budget (excluding military construction) and $88.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2016. The president requested $50.9 billion for OCO.

The House Appropriations Committee earlier said the House OCO funding level, including $38 billion from the base budget, is for ”preparation and operation of our forces in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, additional intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.”

The White House and many Democrats argue that including the additional base budget funding in OCO to get around defense funding caps (set in the Budget Control Act) could lead to cuts to nondefense programs and is bad defense budgeting. The White House has threatened a presidential veto of any bill that increases defense funding at the expense of nondefense programs.

House Appropriations Committee (HAC) chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the House bill “fulfills our responsibilities to properly fund programs for our warfighters, our military families, our national security, and for the success of our missions both now and in the future.”

The House bill would fund a 2.3 percent military pay raise that is authorized in the House-passed FY2016 Defense Authorization bill. The president’s budget requests a 1.3 percent pay raise for military personnel.

The bill rejects the administration’s proposal to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and restores $400 million. The bill also would deny the administration proposal to increase commissary prices to pay for operating costs and restores funding for the proposed cut.

The bill rejects DoD’s proposal to retire the A-10 Warthog aircraft and includes $453 million in the FY2016 OCO account to maintain the current A-10 force.

Procurement funding in the bill includes funds to buy 9 ships, 65 F-35 aircraft and 12 KC-46 tanker aircraft, 7 EA-18G Growlers, 5 FA-18 E/F Super Hornets, and 64 AH-64 and 102 UH-60 helicopters.

Major programs receiving R&D funding include: the new Air Force bomber; next generation JSTARS, Navy’s Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System; the Ohio-class submarine replacement; and STYKER lethality.

The House rejected a floor amendment by HAC Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-WA) that would have required Congress to vote by March 31 on an authorization to use force to combat ISIL militants. The Congress and the White House have been discussing such an authorization for months without making any progress. Meanwhile, U.S. and allied air forces continue to conduct bombing raids on ISIL forces citing a previous “war powers” authorization and the president has recently ordered an addition 450 U.S. troops to bolster training of Iraqi and other forces.

The House has now passed six of the 12 FY2016 appropriations bills (Commerce/Justice/Science, Defense, Energy and Water, Legislative, Military Construction/VA, and Transportation/HUD) and three more bills (Financial Services, Interior and Environment, and State/Foreign Operations) have cleared the House appropriations committee.

To date, the Senate has yet to consider any appropriations bill, although the DoD bill may go the Senate floor after action is completed on the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee has cleared five bills for floor action (Commerce/Justice/Science, Energy and Water, Homeland Security, Legislative, and Military Construction/VA).

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