Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved (25-1) its version of the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill.  The bill authorizes force levels, programs, and policies (including military pay raises) for DoD budgets and the programs and policies for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program.  Appropriations bills provide actual funding.

According to the committee press release, the SASC bill authorizes $496 billion for the DoD base budget and $17.7 billion for DOE nuclear weapons program.

The SASC bill approves the president’s request for a 1 percent military pay raise, lower than the 1.8 percent military raise included in the House-passed bill. However, the SASC agreed with the House-passed bill and accepted the president’s proposal to freeze pay for General and Flag officers in FY2015.

Unlike the House-passed bill, the SASC bill approves the president’s request to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and to increase pharmacy copays for prescriptions for non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries not filled in military treatment facilities. The SASC press release justified the committee’s action calling these savings provisions “undesirable but necessary” in order to provide defense resources that provide sufficient readiness and modernization funds while staying within the budget caps.

The SASC did agree with the House in rejecting administration proposals to establish TRICARE-for-Life enrollment fees, cut $1 billion from the annual commissary subsidy, and initiate another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

The SASC did not outright deny the administration proposal to defer a decision on refueling the USS George Washington. Rather it included language allowing the Navy to use $650 million in unobligated balances to fund the refueling. The House bill rejects the administration proposal for the carrier refueling and provides almost $800 million in funding. The SASC bill also prohibits (as does the House bill) the Air Force from retiring the A-10 aircraft fleet and also blocks full implementation of the Army’s plan to move AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to active components.

In a major organizational move, the SASC bill includes a provision that would combine the DoD positions of Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) into a DoD Chief Management Officer. Currently, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, supported by the DCMO and staff, assumes the CMO roles and responsibilities.

The full Senate could consider the bill before the August recess.