There is mounting evidence that the Navy is reading the congressional tea leaves and preparing to refuel and modernize the aircraft carrier George Washington. (MC1 Trevor Welsh / US Navy)
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Three things to watch when the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) unveils its 2015 Pentagon spending bill on July 17.
Issue: Save the A-10?
What’s happening: The House this spring approved a fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that included language prohibiting any A-10 retirements, which the Air Force wants. In its version of that Pentagon policy bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee also proposed blocking A-10 retirements.
The House has approved an amendment from Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., that would prohibit the Pentagon from using money to divest, retire, transfer or place in storage any A-10 aircraft, and block the department from preparing to cut any of the aircraft.
What’s next: SAC-D member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CongressWatch before the July 4 recess that panel members are “getting close” to agreement on a budgetary offset to keep the A-10s flying for one more year.
Blocking the service’s plan would require a budgetary offset — meaning a cut to something else within the Pentagon’s budget — to pay for A-10 operating and maintenance costs for the year. SAC-D Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has indicated he supports keeping the A-10 fleet alive. Can he find a passable offset to do so?
Issue: A GW Reprieve?
What’s happening: There is mounting evidence that the Navy is reading the congressional tea leaves and preparing to refuel and modernize the aircraft carrier George Washington. The sea service could “soon” award a $182 million contract to Huntington Ingalls to do the work, an apparent reaction to three congressional defense committees’ blocking a Navy plan to retire the aircraft carrier. Lawmakers want to keep the ship active, meaning America would maintain 11 carrier strike groups.
What’s next: SAC-D appears poised to follow the Armed Services committees and the House Appropriations Committee’s collective lead. Durbin, when questioned by Capitol Hill reporters about program-specific details of his coming bill, has remained mum. But many lawmakers acknowledge the nation’s carrier fleet is a key part of US military power and America’s influence on world events.
Issue: War-funding Plan
What’s happening: The White House and Pentagon last month finally sent a $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending request to Capitol Hill. That figure is quite smaller than the $79.4 billion “placeholder” the Obama administration sent over this year for the war in Afghanistan and other US military operations abroad.
What’s next: Republicans vowed to closely scrutinize the OCO plan, which arrived on the Hill after three of the four congressional defense panels had completed their 2015 defense bills. The House has passed its national defense authorization and appropriations bills, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has passed a 2015 Pentagon policy bill. That means SAC-D members and staffers will get the only opportunity to amend the OCO plan during its normal legislative process. What changes might Durbin’s panel make — and will those spawn a White House veto threat?
— John T. Bennett with Christopher P. Cavas contributing.