Political Report: 9/11/2018

 In Political Report

Main Story: Only Seven Days Left in the House Before the End of Fiscal Year 2018

Both the House and the Senate are in session this week, and while the Senate will likely see more action on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the main focus for the House of Representatives will be appropriations. As we discussed last week, whether Congress will pass appropriations prior to the end of Fiscal Year 2018 on September 30th is largely up to Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. While it is unlikely that any deal can be made on funding for the Department of Homeland Security due to disputes over funding for a border wall, plans are moving forward to pass appropriations for most of the government.

First up will be a relatively non-controversial ‘minibus’ that combines funding for Energy & Water, the Veterans Affairs, Military Construction, and Legislative branch appropriations. Should this go smoothly, consideration for other bills, including a minibus combining funding for the Department of Defense and Labor/Health & Human Services, would likely pass as well. However, should any hang-ups occur that start to compress the legislative timeline, a continuing resolution (CR) would be the most likely fallback measure.

In the background to all of this is the President, who continues to vacillate between wanting to avoid a shutdown and threatening one over funding for the border wall. It remains unclear how the White House will ultimately choose to approach funding for the end of the year. That will be determined by whether appropriations for most of the government are signed into law on time, a CR is passed, or if the government is shutdown (unlikely, but not impossible).

Key Dates & Appropriations Update:

  • September 30th – End of Fiscal Year 2018
  • November 6th – Election Day
  • December 13th – Last scheduled session day in 2018
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House Activity

The House is in session this week and will focus primarily on appropriations.

Senate Activity

The Senate will consider legislation to deal with the opioid epidemic and may take up the results of any negotiations around appropriations if possible.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HPSCI
    • No hearings this week
  • SSCI
    • 9/13 ‘Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters: Full Committee Briefing’, Hart 219, 2pm
  • HFAC
    • 9/12 ‘Reviewing Current Developments in Ethiopia’, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Hearing, 2172 Rayburn, 2pm
    • 9/13 ‘Oversight of U.S. Sanctions Policy’, Full Committee Hearing, 2172 Rayburn, 10am
    • 9/13 ‘H.Res. 1017 Markup’, Full Committee Markup, 2172 Rayburn, 1230pm
    • 9/14 ‘U.S. Policy Toward Syria’, Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa Hearing, 2172 Rayburn, 930am
  • SFRC
    • 9/13 ‘Business Meeting’, Full Committee Meeting, SD-419 Dirksen, 1015am
    • 9/13 ‘Russia’s Role in Syria and the Broader Middle East’, Full Committee Hearing, SD-419 Dirksen, Immediately Following Business Meeting
  •  SASC
    • No hearings this week
  • HASC
    • 9/13 ‘Army Futures Command: Will It Help’, Subcommittee on Readiness, 2020 Rayburn, 130pm
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

Two interesting reports have been released in the past week on aircraft sustainment costs. First, the CBO looks at the cost to the Air Force operating aging aircraft. Given that the average age of the USAF fleet is likely to continue to increase for the next several years, this would exacerbate existing negative trends. Since 2001, “For nine of the 13 aircraft fleets examined, CBO found real annual growth rates in operating costs per flying hour that ranged between 3 percent and 7 percent.” Further analysis in the full report here.

The GAO’s report looks at aircraft availability in the Air Force and Navy and finds that both services failed to meet their availability goals between 2011 and 2016. GAO dug in further to look at the types of challenges the services were dealing with for various platforms during this period. The biggest challenges, ones that afflict every type of platform listed, are ‘delays in depot maintenance’ and ‘diminishing manufacturing source.’ Both problems have complex origins, but GAO believes performance improvements are possible. Full report here.

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