The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version of the FY2015 DoD Appropriations bill last week.
The SAC bill provides $490 billion for DoD appropriations in the base budget (excluding military construction, which is provided in a separate bill), $1 billion below the request. The bill also includes $58.3 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), $200 million below the president’s request.
Sen. Barbara Milkulski (D-MD) called the bill “a good bill for our men and women in uniform.” “It emphasizes readiness, cares for our wounded warriors, takes steps to improve health on our military bases and provides resources needed to keep our nation secure”, she said.
The House bill, passed last month, provides $491 billion for the base DoD budget and $79.4 billion for OCO.
The SAC bill would provide funding for 1 percent military pay raise as proposed by the president. The House-passed bill funds a 1.8 percent military pay raise as authorized under the House-passed FY2015 Defense Authorization bill. The SAC also approves the administration request to freeze pay for general and flag officers and allow for slower Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) growth.
The bill also funds a 1 percent civilian pay raise requested by the president.
The SAC bill would fund the Defense Health Program (DHP) at $31.6 billion ($400 million below the request), essentially the same level as the House-passed bill. The bill would add $200 million to the Defense Commissary Agency funding request to maintain operations and block the president’s proposed cut to the commissary subsidy. The bill also cuts $20 million from Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) funding to reflect a five percent personnel reduction.
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding in the SAC bill would total $165.8 billion, only slightly below the administration’s request, but $1 billion more than the House-passed bill. The SAC includes funding increases for facility sustainment (+$1 billion) and depot maintenance ($+360 million).
The SAC bill 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 House also provided funding for refueling. The SAC also funds continued operations of A-10 aircraft, blocking (like the House) the administration proposal to retire the A-10 fleet.
Procurement funding in the bill totals $91.4 billion, $1.7 billion higher than the request and about $200 million over the House-passed bill. Included in the SAC procurement funding are: two attack submarines and three Littoral Combat Ships; 34 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) and 7 KC-46A tankers, 12 EA-18G Growlers, and 79 H-60 Blackhawk and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters.
The SAC bill includes $62.6 billion for research and development, almost $1 billion less than the request and about $200 less than the House. Among the programs receiving R&D funding are: the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV); the long-range strike bomber; and the KC-tanker. The SAC also added almost $800 million for medical research with a special focus on Peer-Reviewed Medical Research and Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research.
To reallocate funding to higher priorities identified by the Committee, the SAC made 517 separate program cuts totaling $11.7 billion. The funding reductions include: $6.6 billion for excess prior-year unobligated balances and forward financing; $2.7 billion due to schedule delays, cost growth, program concurrency and poor contractor performance; $1.3 billion to eliminate unnecessary program growth; and $1.1 billion for program redundancy, insufficient documentation, and program terminations. The SAC bill also cuts $500 million (3 percent) form the IT budget request to encourage prioritization of non-cybersecurity investments.
Given the Senate’s stalemate over the amendment process for floor action on appropriations bills, it is unclear when the defense bill will be considered on the Senate floor. To date the full Senate has not considered any FY2015 appropriations bill, while the House has passed seven (including the DOD bill). It is also unclear whether the defense bill will be a stand-alone bill or will be included in a continuing resolution (CR). With the August recess less than two weeks away and the mid-term congressional elections looming, it is becoming more likely that a CR may be considered sooner rather than later and final congressional action on most appropriations bills will be deferred until after the election.