Political Report: 6/11/2018

 In Political Report

Main Story: FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to be Debated in the Senate

Congress continues to move forward on defense legislation this week, with both the House and the Senate taking up defense bills for FY 2019. After overcoming objections from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), the Senate will consider the NDAA this week, though a handful of amendments are likely to be voted on. On the House side, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark-up the FY 2019 defense appropriations bill on Wednesday. Both pieces of legislation reflect the agreed upon toplines in the Bipartisan Budget Act, but there is significant variation within the bills in terms of what is being purchased. Expect more analysis here as the legislation continues to move forward.

House Activity

The House will work through quite a few suspension bills this week, before working on legislation aimed at addressing the nation’s opioid crisis.

Senate Activity

The Senate will spend most of the week on the NDAA.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • SASC
    • No hearings this week
  • HASC
    • 6/13 ‘Department of Defense Aviation Safety Mishap Review and Oversight Process’, Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
    • 6/14 ‘Navy and Air Force Depot Policy Issues and Infrastructure Concerns’, Full Committee Hearing, 2212 Rayburn, 9am
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • 6/13 ‘Full Committee Markup – FY 2019 Defense and Financial Services Appropriations Bills’, Full Committee Mark-up, TBD, 12pm

Government Activity Round-up

In honor of the NDAA, this week we’ll link the two CBO reports on the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. Unsurprisingly, both bills authorize $709 billion for DoD, but the details vary significantly. In the long-term, the provisions in HASC’s version would increase spending by $48 billion for FY20-FY23, while SASC’s proposals would only increase spending by $22 billion. In addition, as the Navy looks for ways to reach a fleet of 355 ships, it may consider recommissioning previously decommissioned vessels. With regard to these considerations, CBO looked at previous examples of the Navy reactivating ships. Overall, the findings indicate that reactivated ships end up being less capable and serving for fewer years than new units, somewhat offsetting the cost savings of not constructing new vessels. More here.

Three interesting GAO reports came out last week. The GAO’s review of the F-35 program got lots of headlines, but to summarize, the GAO looked at the F-35 development program and found that DoD’s plan to delay dealing with certain critical deficiencies until after the aircraft went to full-rate production lacked a sound business case. Its recommendation was that Congress should limit funding to F-35 production until such a case is provided. While it is doubtful that Congress will act on this recommendation, given its historical enthusiasm for adding aircraft to the Pentagon’s planned orders, it does highlight that future costs in the program may increase when DoD is required to make corrections to already produced platforms. Full report here.

The GAO also looked at Navy shipbuilding over the past decade, specifically how despite setting a target of 330 ships in 2007 that the Navy has fallen 50 ships short while going $11 billion over budget. Full report is here and it’s not pretty. Lastly, GAO looked at the DoD’s approach to burn pits and found that, despite having established guidance around burn pit emissions, “DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials”. GAO then makes a series of recommendations around monitoring that DoD is at least partially implementing. Full report here.

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