By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
House Armed Services Committee begins Debate on the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act
While there has been plenty of defense news over the weekend from the tragic collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship and the shooting down of a Syrian Su-22, this week should see more defense headlines as the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will begin debate on the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with subcommittee markups on Wednesday and Thursday. After that, the full committee will debate and pass the final bill on the 28th. This marks the beginning of the legislative process for FY 2018 funding, though the NDAA that HASC debates and passes is unlikely to contain an accurate view of what Congress will appropriate for FY 2018.
Over the winter, the chairman of HASC, Rep. Mac Thornberry, joined with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) to propose a defense budget for FY 2018. This proposal would have base national security spending for FY 2018 come in at $640 billion. The Department of Defense’s share of this funding is normally 95%, for a base budget of $608 billion. On top of that, Rep. Thornberry & Sen. McCain would include the full $65 billion in OCO funding, bringing total Department of Defense spending to just over $670 billion for FY 2018. This is in marked contrast to the Trump budget, which only requests a total of $639 billion for DoD. However, defense spending will likely be determined by negotiations between Democratic and Republican leadership.
In recent years, Congress has been unable to match the President’s budget request for the DoD topline and given the ongoing issues with the budget process, it’s hard to see how defense hawks will now have the upper hand. While the authorizing committees will almost certainly move forward with a higher topline, appropriators are going to be unable to move bills through the Senate that don’t have Democratic support. Democrats have been loath to support legislation that significantly increases defense spending without increasing non-defense spending. At the same time, deficit hawks in the Republican caucus oppose any increase in spending. This basic math makes it difficult to see how appropriators will be able to provide a significant increase to defense spending for FY 2018.
All that being said, the NDAA still does represent the goals and spending objectives of Congress, making its mark-up a major event for defense watchers. Next week’s mark-up promises to make for interesting news.
House Activity – This week the House will vote on several pieces of domestic legislation, two from the House Natural Resources Committee and one from the Education and Workforce Committee. In addition, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is scheduled to deliver a major address on tax reform on Tuesday.
Senate Activity – The Senate has a series of nominations that it will look to approve this week, though Senate Democrats are debating slowing down Senate activity in protest to the lack of committee hearings on Senate Republican’s health care legislation. Off the floor, if Senate Republicans plan on voting on their health care bill prior to July 4th, the CBO will need to receive a final proposal by sometime this week. Expect more fireworks here.
- 6/20 ‘Nomination of Patrick Shanahan to be Deputy Secretary of Defense’, Full Committee, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 6/21 ‘Navy Shipbuilding Programs’, Subcommittee on Seapower, SR-232A Russell, 9am
- 6/22 ‘Nomination of Richard Spencer to be Secretary of the Navy’, Full Committee, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 6/21 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, 2212 Rayburn, 230pm
- 6/21 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, 2118 Rayburn, 4pm
- 6/22 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Readiness, 2212 Rayburn, 9am
- 6/22 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, 2118 Rayburn, 1030am
- 6/22 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, 2212 Rayburn, 1130am
- 6/22 ‘NDAA Markup’, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, 2118 Rayburn,
- HAC-D – No hearings this week
- SAC-D – 6/21 ‘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 this week.
Two GAO reports worth looking at out last week. The first is a review of five key challenges that the department will need to address to accomplish its mission. First is to rebalance and rebuild readiness, second is to mitigate threats to cyberspace and to expand its cyber capability, third is to control the escalating costs of various programs, fourth is to better manage its human capital, and fifth is to improve efficiency in business operations. While individuals inside (and outside) DoD would likely challenge some of GAO’s conclusions and recommendations, the overall document is very much worth reading. The full report is 84 pages long, but the summary can be found here.
The second interesting report is a review of the Navy’s cost estimating on the lead ship of the Ford-class. GAO concludes ‘the first version of this ship cost over $2 billion more than estimated’. They have concerns about pricing on the second ship in the class and other recommendations.
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