Defense Authorization Debate Shifts to the Senate
By Matt Vallone, Senior Analysis Manager
The busy spring season continues this week, though the focus for defense activity shifts from the House to the Senate. This week, the Senate will attempt to take up and pass its version of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), S. 2943. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will markup funding legislation for the Department of Defense on Tuesday morning. Both bills face an uncertain future as, despite bipartisan committee support, looming conflict over defense toplines may prevent their final passage into law. Defense hawks are looking to increase base defense spending by $18 billion, moving above the figures laid out in last year’s Bipartisan Budget Act. This action follows-up on the House of Representatives passing its version of the NDAA (H.R. 4909) 277 to 147, which increased base defense spending by only paying for a partial year of overseas operations. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee marked up funding legislation at the levels set in the NDAA. Given past opposition by Democrats to increasing defense spending without increasing non-defense spending, it is likely that we will see significant resistance to both authorization and appropriation funding.
In other news, a planned hearing by HASC’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces on the decks of the USS has turned into a congressional trip (also known as a ‘CODEL’) with the content of the hearing moved back to the Rayburn building on Thursday.
Besides the NDAA, the Senate will be finishing legislation reauthorizing the national registry for sex offenders. The House of Representatives will look to move forward with legislation controlling toxic substances, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, and Zika-related legislation exempting pesticides from Clean Water Act requirements. In addition, the Natural Resources Committee will attempt to finally move forward on legislation addressing the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. Several attempts to move a bill in the committee, which has jurisdiction due to Puerto Rico’s status as a territory, have already run aground of competing demands between liberals and conservatives, but last week Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the White House came to agreement on an approach. That being said, until votes are underway, anything can happen.
Congressional Defense Activity
SASC – No hearings this week
HASC – 5/26 ‘Navy Force Structure and Readiness: Perspectives from the Fleet’, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
HAC-D – No hearings scheduled
SAC-D – 5/24 Defense Subcommittee, Markup of the Defense Appropriations Act
Government Activity Round-up
The GAO has released a report looking at the risk to critical infrastructure posed by Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). In particular, it looks at the steps taken by various Federal agencies to protect against the threat of EMPs. This report summarized testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security and represented the result of earlier legislative language from the FY2001 NDAA. However one views EMPs, the discussion of various federal efforts is interesting, to say the least.
Still no new defense-related reports from the Congressional Budget Office, so here is its score for HASC’s NDAA. Given that it is an authorization rather than an appropriation, this is less important overall, but the bill comes in as net deficit reduction (saves $206 million over ten years).
Lots of interesting Avascent material in the past couple of weeks. First, Doug Berenson & Daniel Yoon have put together a comprehensive look at the ‘Dynamics of International Military Modernization 2016’ that is available for download here. In addition, Alek Jovovic and Jon Barney have published their ‘Survey of Defense Offsets, Global Partnerships, and Industrial Cooperation: Rising Awareness, Enduring Challenges and 7 Key Steps for Success’, which can be downloaded here. Lastly, Chris Conrad and Matt Vallone have put together a paper looking at challenges facing the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding plan, which can be found here.
On Monday afternoon, the Stimson Center hosts a well-timed look at the US relationship with Vietnam (though focused on climate change). Given the decision by the Obama administration to allow the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam, there may be quite a few questions not necessarily on topic. On Tuesday, the Stimson Center will be hosting another interesting event, looking at the budget challenges posed by overseas contingency operations. On Wednesday, the Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on the ‘Pacific Alliance 2.0: Next Steps for Integration’. Lastly, on Thursday before everyone heads out of town for Memorial Day weekend, the Council on Foreign Relations presents Richard Haass discussing the book, ‘The Pragmatic Superpower’ with its authors.