WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee will take up its nearly $600 billion 2016 defense spending bill next week.
On its website, the panel announced a full-committee markup session for next Tuesday (June 2). The committee's Defense subpanel earlier this month approved the measure, which mostly fully funds big-ticket Pentagon weapon programs.
The legislation, crafted by Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., proposes $578.6 billion in defense spending. The committee's overall funding level would be $24.4 billion above the amount enacted for the current fiscal year.
The measure includes an $88.4 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, setting up a showdown with the Obama administration and a potential battle on the House floor — if not during the markup. Many government watchdogs, joined by conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, call the OCO account a "slush fund" that should not be used to offset spending caps.
House and Senate Republican leaders earlier this year added around $40 billion to the war fund in the GOP-crafted 2016 budget resolution to appease defense hawks and secure their votes on that measure.
It's possible a coalition of liberals and conservatives could attempt to shrink the inflated OCO when the bill hits the House floor.
The White House has said the president will veto any bill with extra defense spending unless Republican leaders also swell domestic spending. That means the House's defense spending bill could be doomed.
But senior White House officials, including Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, say congressional Republicans can avoid that if they work with Democrats to also increase domestic spending.
Gordon Adams, an American University professor who oversaw national defense budgeting for the Clinton administration, says the spending bill shows annual Pentagon spending is headed up. And that, he says, could kill sweeping weapon system-buying changes being pushed by the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
"If you look at what appropriators did with their marks, you know a lot of [the extra war funding] is going to be shoveled toward acquisition," Adams says. "The dollar signs will tell you the money is going up, so the incentives to make big decisions on acquisition reform."