Yesterday, the House passed its version of the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill, 325-98. The House bill authorizes $521.3 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) funding for the nuclear weapons program. The bill also authorizes $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2015.
In praising the House action, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon said "for the 53rd consecutive year, Republicans and Democrats have come together to pass the legislation that provides vital authorities and resources for our men and women in uniform.”
During its two-day consideration of the bill, the House considered 161 amendments of which 154 were approved and seven were rejected. Another eight amendments were ruled in order by the House Rules Committee, but were withdrawn or not offered. Earlier, the Rules Committee did not clear for House consideration a controversial amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) that would give legal status to some undocumented immigrants who enlisted in the military.
The House bill provides military personnel with a 1.8 percent pay raise, almost twice the 1 percent raise requested in the president’s budget. The bill accepts the president’s proposal to freeze pay for General and Flag officers in FY2015.
The bill rejects the president’s proposals to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), cut $1 billion from the annual commissary subsidy, and modernize and consolidate TRICARE programs for retirees under age 65, including some TRICARE co-pay increases. The bill also rejects an administration proposal to initiate another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.
The House also denied the administration proposal to defer a decision on refueling the USS George Washington until the FY2016 budget. The bill provides almost $800 million in FY2015 to refuel the aircraft carrier. The bill also prohibits the Air Force from retiring the A-10 aircraft fleet until after the General Accountability Office (GAO) completes a study evaluating the cost and capabilities of platforms used by the Air Force to conduct close air support missions.
The House bill drew a veto threat from the White House. A Statement of Administration (SAP) on the bill issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) identified three areas in which, according to the administration, the bill would increase security risks. The Administration takes issue with the bill’s: exclusion of administration proposals on compensation reform or other cost savings; rejection of proposed force structure changes; and restrictions on the department’s management of weapon systems and its infrastructure. The SAP also criticized the bill’s restrictions on detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
The OMB SAP warns Congress that the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto “if the bill presented to the President impedes the ability of the Administration to properly direct scarce resources for our military, or continues unwarranted restrictions regarding detainees.”