This week, the House Appropriations Military Construction/VA subcommittee marked up the FY2014 Military Construction and the Veterans Affairs appropriations bills. This action marks the beginning of formal House consideration of FY2014 appropriations.
The Military Construction portion of the bill provides $9.9 billion for military construction projects, family housing, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the NATO Security Investment Program, and Chemical Demilitarization construction. This is $1.1 billion less than the FY2014 request and about $650 million below the FY2013 enacted level.
According to member discussions of the subcommittee's recommendations at the markup, the bill fully funds the request for Family Housing and the Department of Defense Education facilities. Although details of the markup are not yet available, members said that most of the $1.1 billion reduction to the request comes from rescissions of prior-year project funding and bid savings.
During the markup some members discussed what might be considered an unintended consequence of the ban on congressional earmarks. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) lamented the fact that the ban does not allow Congress to take action that would benefit the taxpayer and the Department of Defense. The ban restricts congressional action that would benefit specific geographical locations, Farr said. As a result, he said Congress is not able to shift funding from construction projects in the budget request that are not ready now to projects planned for future budgets (in the Future Years Defense Program—FYDP), but are ready to go and would meet a pressing need. Many of Farr’s colleagues agreed, including Subcommittee chair Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who said the issue needed further review.
The full House Appropriations Committee (HAC) is scheduled to take up the FY2014 Military Construction/VA bill on May 21. HAC chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) said his goal this year is to complete action on all 12 appropriations bills for full House consideration.