This week, the full House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved the FY2016 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations bill. The HAC bill would provide $490 billion for the DoD base budget (excluding military construction).
The bill also provides $88 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2016. The president requested $50.9 billion for OCO.
Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the bill “makes responsible use of every tax dollar to give our armed forces the resources needed to stay safe, prepared, and in peak fighting form.”
The additional funding for OCO in the House bill is for requirements from the base bill. The Committee press release stated that the OCO funding is for “preparation and operation of our forces in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, additional intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.”
The White House and many Democrats have argued that including the additional base budget funding in OCO to get around defense funding caps (set in the Budget Control Act) could lead to cuts to nondefense programs. The White House has threatened a presidential veto of any bill that increases defense funding at the expense of nondefense programs.
OMB Director Shaun Donovan sent a letter to Rogers expressing the administration’s concerns about the committee’s use of OCO to fund defense base budget requirements. The bill’s “deliberate relabeling of non-war costs as OCO clearly violates OCO funding purposes,” Donovan wrote. While stating these and other White House concerns about the bill, Donovan’s letter did not directly threaten a veto. Rather, he said the administration wants to work with Congress to reverse sequestration.
The HAC bill would fund a 2.3 percent military pay raise that is authorized in the House-passed FY2016 Defense Authorization bill. The president’s budget requests a 1.3 percent pay raise for military personnel. The bill rejects the administration’s proposal to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and adds $400 million to pay for restoring that cut. The bill also would deny an administration proposal to increase commissary prices to pay for operating costs and restored funding for proposed cuts.
The bill would fund the Defense Health Program (DHP) at $31.4 billion, $800 million below the request
Funding in the HAC bill for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) programs would total $162.3 billion for the base budget and $56.5 billion for OCO, about $2.6 billion above the total O&M request. OCO O&M funding includes $14 billion for base requirements and another $2.5 billion for readiness needs.
The bill would provide $116.7 billion in total for procurement programs. Base budget procurement in the bill would be $98.6 billion ($8 billion below the request), with another $18.1 billion in OCO ($11 billion above the request). Included in the bill’s total procurement account are funds to buy 9 ships, 65 F-35 aircraft and 12 KC-46 tanker aircraft, 7 EA-18G Growlers, 5 FA-18 E/F Super Hornets, and 64 AH-64 and 102 UH-60 helicopters.
The committee report appears to agree that the administration has a case to retire the A-10 Warthog aircraft stating that “divestment of the A–10 is the least unattractive option in the long run if the Air Force is to meet all of its national security responsibilities.” However, the committee also stated that “ongoing conflicts and contingency operations, a security environment that senior military leaders have described as highly uncertain, and continuing overseas deployments of A–10 squadrons raise questions of overall combat air forces capacity and whether it is prudent to proceed immediately with A–10 divestment.” So, the committee included $453 million in the FY2016 OCO account to maintain the current A-10 force.
Total Research and development (R&D) in the bill would be $67.9 billion, $66.2 billion in the base budget ($3.6 billion less than the request) and $1.7 billion in OCO ($1.5 billion above the request). Major programs receiving R&D funding include: the new Air Force bomber; next generation JSTARS, Navy’s Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System; the Ohio-class submarine replacement; and STRYKER lethality
No date has been set for House floor action on the FY2016 DoD appropriations bill.