WASHINGTON — A US House panel dominated by pro-military Republicans has approved a 2014 spending bill that would give the Pentagon more than $3 billion less than President Barack Obama is seeking.
The House Appropriations defense subcommittee is proposing a $512.5 billion base Pentagon budget, $3.4 billion smaller than Obama’s request.
Like the House Armed Services Committee’s 2014 Pentagon policy bill, the Appropriations subcommittee’s bill simply ignores sequestration, which mandates about $50 billion in national defense cuts next fiscal year.
A senior House aide said Monday that committees are obligated to budget to the House Budget Committee’s annual spending resolution. Released by the lower chamber earlier this year, that budget measure would slightly inflate Pentagon spending while cutting from other parts of the federal budget.
The $512.5 billion is $5.1 billion smaller than the presequestration amount the Pentagon received for this fiscal year. But after the mandatory cuts for 2013 are factored in, the subcommittee’s funding level would be just over $28 billion larger than the post-sequester Pentagon 2013 budget.
The same aide acknowledged Monday that, by budgeting to a level so much above sequester levels, lawmakers are operating in a “fantasy world.” Like Obama, lawmakers are presenting Pentagon budget plans that could be implemented sequester-free, after Congress and the president strike a sequester-canceling “grand bargain” fiscal deal this summer.
There has been little progress so far, however, on that kind of sweeping pact.
House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said in a statement that the subcommittee “provides the funding necessary to advance our missions abroad, to prepare and equip our troops, and to ensure readiness and effectiveness of our military so that they can successfully face any threat to our land.”
The subcommittee is slated to mark up its 2014 defense appropriations bill on Wednesday morning. The full panel could mark up the bill next week.
“I have always maintained that this Subcommittee would not adversely impact the readiness of our military,” House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., said in the same statement. “We have kept that commitment, as well as our commitment to the brave men and women, and their families, who selflessly serve our country.”
The subcommittee’s legislation mirrors the HASC’s authorization bill by proposing just over $85 billion in war funding, a $5 billion increase over Obama’s request.
“This funding will provide the needed resources for our troops in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, and maintenance of facilities and equipment,” states a subcommittee summary of the bill.
The HAC-D bill would slice the Obama administration’s military procurement request by $750 million, proposing $98.4 billion to buy combat platforms, spare parts and other items.
Defense analysts of all political stripes have warned sequestration and mounting military personnel bills are poised to cause massive procurement cuts. To that end, the House subcommittee is proposing $2 billion less than the enacted 2013 procurement level.
On Monday, during an event on Capitol Hill, former White House budget official Gordon Adams warned the ongoing downturn in US defense spending will be “lopsided” unless infrastructure and personnel reforms are made.
In fact, unless such reforms are enacted soon, Adams — one of 25 defense analysts who signed a recent letter to senior lawmakers and top Pentagon brass on the subject — predicts “funds for forces and procurement [will] dry up.”
On specific weapon programs, the subcommittee proposes “$15 billion to procure eight Navy ships, including fully funding two SSN-774 attack submarines; $5.1 billion for 29 F-35 aircraft; [and] $1.9 billion for 21 EA-18G Growlers.”
It also calls for “$2.2 billion for 73 UH-60 Blackhawk and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters; $1.5 billion for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account; $1.8 billion for five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles; [and] $1.5 billion for 18 C-130J variants.”
The Appropriations defense subcommittee also proposes spending $220 million on Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield, which has been credited with stopping missiles fired at Israeli towns by the Hamas organization.
Another typical target for cuts when annual defense budgets come down are research-and-development coffers, a place the subcommittee turned to shrink the Obama request.
The panel is proposing $66.4 billion for R&D in 2014, $1.1 billion less than Obama sought and $3.5 billion less than enacted for this fiscal year.
That $66.4 billion would cover R&D work on the F-35 fighter, KC-46A tanker aircraft, P8-A anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare aircraft, a new bomber aircraft, the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance remotely piloted aircraft, a new ballistic-missile submarine and other high-profile programs.
The legislation also reflects Young’s practice of having staff scrub the Pentagon budget to identify things that could be cut, allowing those dollars to be used for other priorities.
“The bill reflects common-sense decisions to save taxpayer dollars where possible in areas that will not affect the safety or success of our troops and missions,” states the panel’s summary. “Some of these reductions include: $1 billion in anticipated excess funding; $437 million for the proposed civilian pay raise; and $2.1 billion in savings from recissions of unused prior-year funding.”