Congress has renewed an effort to get the Department of Defense (DoD) military leaders to identify requirements that are not requested in the budget.
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) has asked the chiefs of the military services, the National Guard, and the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands to submit unfunded requirements priority lists when the FY2015 budget is submitted on March 4, 2014.
In his letter, McKeon asks for a list of “programs and requirements that have not been selected for funding in the President’s budget request but are necessary to fulfill a validated requirement or combatant commander priority and that you would have recommended for inclusion in the President’s budget request had additional resources been available.” McKeon implies that funding for these requirements could become available during the congressional review of the budget.
With the FY2015 spending cap set in the budget agreement, it is difficult to believe any additional funding would be available for these requirements unless funds were moved from nondefense budgets to defense. However, the committees could free up funding for these projects by cutting funds for DoD priorities based on execution problems, lack of justification, “buying ahead of need,” or numerous other congressional adjustment justifications. Congress also could rescind funding for prior-year programs to pay for projects on these lists.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have asked for these so-called “wish Lists” off and on for years, but have often met resistance from DoD civilian leadership. Over the years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) responses to military leaders complying with these requests have ranged from maintaining a “hands-off approach or requiring that OSD staff review the service lists before they were sent, to prohibiting the services from preparing and sending the lists to Congress.
Critics of these lists from inside and outside the Pentagon have called them politically motivated efforts to embarrass the administration or cover for congressional pork barrel projects. Proponents of the lists, primarily congressional “hawks,” say the lists allow the services to speak freely about their requirements and better enable Congress to address deficiencies in the budget request.