By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: Health Care Will Get Headlines but the Defense Budget Process Is Underway
This week’s headlines will be dominated by the fate of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Given that the legislation is moving through the reconciliation process, Republicans will be able to pass this legislation with only 50 votes. However, thus far it is unclear whether they will have the numbers to pass the BCRA prior to the 4th of July recess (which starts on Friday). Drama (and a vote-a-rama) will ensue.
At the same time the fate of the BCRA is being decided, both chambers will see the defense budgeting process get under way. In the House, both the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee (HAC-D) will mark up their respective pieces of legislation, the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the FY2018 defense appropriations bill. At the same time, the House Budget Committee is hoping to announce an agreement on a proposed budget resolution for FY2018. In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee (SASC) will have to mark-up its version of the NDAA.
In all of these cases, the topline for defense spending will be well above what was requested by the Trump administration. One key point to be aware of as you read coverage of any of these pieces of legislation is that they either do not directly provide money (in the case of the NDAA or the budget) or they will require Democratic votes to be signed into law (the appropriations bill). House Republicans have not involved Democrats in their deliberations, and Senate Republicans have not yet started discussing a budget, so while the topline figures will look impressive, they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Overall, House Republicans appear to be coalescing around a topline level of $621 billion in defense spending with $75 billion going towards overseas operations. This would be a significant increase above the Trump budget request total. It would, however, be slightly below the goal laid out by SASC this winter of having a base budget of $640 billion.
 A ‘vote-a-rama’ is a Senate session where a budget or budget reconciliation measure is considered. Under the rules of the Senate such a measure cannot be subject to a filibuster, but is subject to amendment. During floor consideration Senators typically offer dozens of amendments in a relatively short period of time, followed by brief vote sequences where the various amendments are either accepted or rejected.
House Activity – The House will spend some time this week on health care, with legislation that would enact significant limits on medical lawsuits and the possibility of weekend votes should the Senate pass the BCRA close to the end of the week. Beyond that, the House will spend time on two immigration bills. ‘Kate’s Law’ (HR 3003) would impose penalties for immigrants that repeatedly enter the United States illegally. The second piece of legislation would bar sanctuary cities from federal grants from DHS and the Department of Justice.
Senate Activity – The Senate will likely have the BCRA on the floor with twenty hours of debate and a vote-a-rama this week. While there is the possibility of the bill slipping (Sen. John Cornyn, the Majority Whip, has said August 1 is the real drop-dead date for action, though he walked that back early Monday).
- NOTE ALL SASC NDAA MARK-UPS ARE CLOSED
- 6/26 ‘Subcommittee on Strategic Forces’, SR-232A Russell, 3pm
- 6/26 ‘Subcommittee on Seapower’, SR-232A Russell, 330pm
- 6/26 ‘Subcommittee on Airland’, SR-232A Russell, 4pm
- 6/26 ‘Subcommittee on Readiness’, SR-232A Russell, 430pm
- 6/26 ‘Subcommittee on Cybersecurity’, SR-232A Rusell, 540pm
- 6/27 ‘Subcommittee on Emerging Threats’, SR-232A Russell, 630am
- 6/27 ‘Subcommittee on Personnel’, SR-232A Russell, 7am
- 6/27 ‘Full Committee mark-up’, SR-222 Russell, 730am
- 6/28 ‘Full Committee mark-up’, SR-222 Russell, 7am
- 6/29 ‘Full Committee mark-up’, SR-222 Russell, 7am
- HASC – 6/28 ‘NDAA Markup’, Full Committee, 2118 Rayburn, 10am-TBD
- HAC-D – 6/26 ‘CLOSED: FY2018 Defense Appropriations Bill Mark-up’, H-140, 7pm
- 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.
The GAO looked at contracting and weapon system procurement in the Army in addition to a review of operational contract support in U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). In the Army study on contracting, GAO felt that the Army does not do a good enough job assessing the overall execution of contracts and recommended that “the Army develop metrics to determine whether its contracts are meeting schedule, cost, and performance goals; and that it assess the impact of its frequent organizational changes (such as centralizing decision-making) on contracting operations.” More available here.
The second GAO report looked at the Army’s acquisition workforce. The number of employees working on acquisitions has declined significantly over the past ten years and GAO felt the Army should review this to see if it was impacting acquisition performance.
Lastly, GAO looked at PACOM’s oversight and review of operational contract support. Unsurprisingly, it found that PACOM’s guidance and oversight could be improved. In particular, GAO found that while PACOM was abiding by overall DoD guidance, it was not fully implementing the data collection needed to fulfill the intention of the guidance. More info in the full report.
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