WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have reduced the 2016 defense policy bill by $5 billion to comply with the budget deal between Congress and the president, including $2.6 billion in "adjustments" to acquisition programs, according to a document circulating online.
The reductions, levied across several dozen line items, amount to several billion dollars in "pain," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, R-Texas, said Monday. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act's (NDAA) top line dropped from $612 billion to $607 billion in the new budget deal announced last week.
The savings was found in negotiations between House and Senate authorizers, and defense appropriators, according to Thornberry. The list of cuts was presented to members of the House Armed Services Committee during a closed-door meeting Monday evening.
Defense watchers expect appropriators to conference and pass their spending bills before Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown, though it is unclear whether they will hew precisely to the $5 billion authorizers are advancing.
Days after members of Congress from both sides of the aisle criticized President Obama's plans to send special operations forces into the fight against the Islamic State in northern Syria, lawmakers cut $250 million from the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund and $125 million from the Syria train and equip program — which the Pentagon announced in October that it would abandon.
The most significant cut to Air Force coffers is a $230 million decrease in funds for the Long Range Strike-Bomber due to repeated delays in the contract award. This is in addition to the $460 million cut lawmakers had already made to the program in FY-16. The Pentagon finally broke its silence on the next-generation bomber last week when Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced that Northrop Grumman beat out a joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin team for the contract. LRS-B is expected to cost about $100 billion overall.
The reduction prompted the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee chairman, Rep. J. Randy Forbes to release a statement emphasizing that the move owed to the award date, "and should not be interpreted as a lack of Congressional support for this program."
"I remain fully committed to providing the Air Force with the resources it needs to field this crucial power projection platform," said Forbes, R-Va.
An MQ-9 Reaper taxis at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. The UAS market saw a 6 percent compound annual growth rate in the last five years, according to the study
Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez/US Air Force
The Army did not take many major hits to specific programs, but Congress is authorizing a $250 million cut to the service's readiness account and $192.6 million to the Army National Guard's readiness funding when both are already stretched paper thin.
The cuts came just as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said readiness — the number of soldiers trained for combat — was the Army's "No. 1 priority," as the Army's shrinks in size.
"The numbers are only one calculation, what's … more important is capability, readiness," Milley said at a forum here on Monday. "We want to have a qualitative advantage, not just a quantitative advantage. It's nice to have both, but in actual war, qualitative advantages are far more decisive and important."
The original NDAA increased the National Guard and Reserve's equipment account but now the plan is to authorize a $170 million cut. The sum still remains $250 million over the president's budget request.
Lawmakers would also make deeper cuts to several communications and network accounts it had already planned to reduce in the 2016 NDAA. Lawmakers are authorizing an additional $10 million cut from the troubled Distributed Common Ground System-Army program, a $5 million cut from the Transportable Tactical Command Communications account and an $894,000 cut from the Mid-Tier Network Vehicular Radio program.
Lawmakers would also make deeper cuts to several communications and network accounts.
A flight test is conducted in 2011 of Lockheed Martin's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii.
Photo Credit: AFP
Note: This story was updated to include Forbes' comments.
Joe Gould is the Congress and industry reporter at Defense News, covering defense budget and policy matters on Capitol Hill as well as industry news.