By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: Mattis on the Hill, the Start of the NDAA Process & the Movement on Appropriations
It will be a busy week for defense budget watchers as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will be on the Hill four days in a row testifying in support of the Trump administration’s FY2018 budget request. At the same time, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is starting the process for the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, and it looks like the House Appropriations Committee will begin marking up legislation, even though neither chamber has debated or voted on a budget resolution.
If you’re looking to get a daily dose of Secretary Mattis, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, here’s their schedule for the week:
- On Monday at 7pm they will be testifying before HASC
- On Tuesday at 930am they will be testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)
- On Wednesday at 1030am they will be before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D)
- On Thursday they wrap up their week before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D)
While Secretary Mattis is on the Hill, other significant action looks to be taking place as HASC starts the FY 2018 NDAA process. On Tuesday June 13th, HASC staff will hold an off the record session with press to discuss the logistics for the NDAA Markup. By tradition, HASC marks up the entirety of the NDAA in one extremely long session (it is not abnormal for the markup to run until 2 or 3 in the morning), so logistical planning is important. In the coming weeks, the various subcommittees will mark up their sections of the bill followed by the full committee markup. Early reports indicate that Chairman Mac Thornberry will seek to pass a bill with base defense spending significantly higher than the Trump administration’s request ($640 billion base budget for DoD & DoE defense spending). However, it remains unclear if this will garner the traditional bipartisan support for the NDAA.
Lastly, the House Appropriations Committee will move forward with markups despite there being no approved budget. On Monday, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will mark up legislation that spends $88.8 billion, an increase of $6 billion over the FY 2017 level. Given that neither chamber has debated or passed a budget, it’s impossible to tell what overall spending level this is aiming for, though rumors are that most legislation will be marked up at the Budget Control Act level. It’s unlikely that “MilCon-VA” will draw much opposition, as it typically has broad, bipartisan support.
House Activity – The House is in session for five days this week, which is relatively abnormal. It will allow consideration of multiple ‘rule bills’, or bills that are controversial enough to possibly fail under suspension. This week, those bills will include a major revamp of laws governing employee accountability and oversight at the VA, legislation to require individuals to provide Social Security numbers to receive health insurance tax credits, and legislation altering the rules under which health care lawsuits against the government are considered. Also of note is ongoing chatter that the House may seek to stay in session into the August recess. For now this seems more like a threat to lawmakers than something that would actually happen, but people are discussing it.
Senate Activity – The Senate will vote on a bill imposing sanctions on Iran, though it may get hung up around sanctions on Russia. Votes on nominations are also likely. Also, this week Senate Republicans may send a version of a proposed health care reform to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, though this was supposed to take place last week and was delayed.
- 6/13 ‘Department of Defense Budget Posture’, Full Committee Hearing, 930am, SD-G50 Dirksen
- 6/13 ‘Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Programs’, Subcommittee on Seapower, 230pm, SR-222 Russell
- 6/15 ‘Posture of the Department of the Navy’, Full Committee Hearing, 930am, SD-G50 Dirksen
- HASC – 6/12 ‘The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense’, Full Committee Hearing, 7pm, 2118 Rayburn
- HAC-D – 6/15 ‘Department of Defense – Budget Hearing’, 9am, 2359 Rayburn
- SAC-D – 6/14 ‘Hearing to Review the FY2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Defense’, 1030am, 192 Dirksen
Government Activity Round-Up
Nothing new from CBO that’s defense related, but they did put together a report on the experience of recent veterans (post-2001) returning to the labor force. It appears that the youngest veterans suffered from above-average unemployment, while older veterans’ experience in the labor market was similar to civilians. More here.
A whole host of interesting GAO reports out last week. Multiple reports on DoD as well as a report on satellite acquisitions, many of which are worth reading. The satellite acquisition piece looked at how/if the government may attempt to recapture some part of contract value if a satellite fails. Some of the more interesting other reports include a look at the Army’s procurement of armored commercial vehicles, a review of DoD’s approach to planning and managing readiness (GAO had fairly scathing conclusions there), and, lastly, a look at the Coast Guard’s efforts to recapitalize its fleet.
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