Political Report: 5/23/2018

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) To Be Debated in the House and Marked Up in the Senate

It’s a busy week in Congress before Memorial Day weekend. The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515) will be debated on the floor starting Tuesday, May 22. Members will vote on over 103 amendments, and the debate is expected to end late Thursday, May 24. This legislation serves as a bellwether for the coming year’s funding debate over defense spending. However, unlike last year, the topline funding level for defense has been set by the Bipartisan Budget Act, meaning that the real debates will occur at the account and program level. Voting on several amendments related to nuclear modernization will be interesting to watch. Amendment No. 5, for example, proposes that half the funding for the W76-2 warhead modification program be withheld until the Pentagon produces a report on the impact this warhead will have on strategic stability.

While the full House debates the NDAA, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will hold mark up sessions for its version of the NDAA. The subcommittees will meet early this week, and the full committee will begin mark ups on Wednesday, May 23. All sessions will be closed to the public. The House and Senate Appropriations Committee are expected to mark up defense appropriations bills by the end of June.

The table below compares the FY 2019 budget request and the HASC version of the NDAA by market segment. Note that the HASC bill seeks to move roughly $1.3 billion in funding for ground systems from OCO to the Base budget. Avascent previously reviewed some plus-ups in the HASC version of the NDAA. Unlike last year, the toplines for the NDAA and the budget are in sync, reflecting the increased spending levels available under the Bipartisan Budget Act that was signed into law earlier this year.

Defense Investment by Market in FY 2019 President’s Budget Request vs. HASC NDAA
(Figures in USD billions)


House Activity

The House will consider several bills under suspension of the rules on prison reform and cancer research. Under normal rules, the House will vote on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, legislation making significant changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform act. The full House Appropriations Committee will mark up legislation for the FY 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, as well as for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

Senate Activity

The Senate will be focused on judicial nominees, committee mark ups on spending bills, and hearings on budget requests. In addition to closed NDAA mark ups in SASC, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet on Thursday, March 24 to review the FY 2019 State Department budget request. The Intelligence Committee is slated to meet twice in closed session.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • SASC
    • 5/23, “CLOSED: Full Committee Markup of NDAA FY 2019”
    • 5/22, “CLOSED: Subcommittees on Seapower, Readiness, Personnel, Cybersecurity, Emerging Threats, and Strategic Forces Markup of NDAA FY 2019”
    • 5/21, “CLOSED: Subcommittee on Airland Markup of NDAA FY 2019”
  • HASC
    • No hearings this week
    • House Floor – 5/22-5/24, Debate on NDAA FY 2019
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

CBO released a cost estimate of the NDAA approved by HASC earlier this month, which authorizes a topline defense budget worth $709 billion. The report found that the bill (H.R. 5515) contains some provisions related to military pay and force structure that would increase the costs of defense programs funded through discretionary appropriations starting in 2020 by $48 billion between 2020-2023. CBO also concluded that H.R. 5515 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029.

GAO released a report on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acquisitions. After reviewing DHS’s portfolio of major 2017 acquisitions, the report found that more than half of its programs needed more time and money than initially planned, an increase from 2016. GAO recommends that DHS emphasize its most promising programs and update its acquisition policy to require certification of fund memorandums when programs re-baseline.

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