This week the Senate passed the FY2013 Defense Authorization bill by a vote of 98-0.  Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chair Sen. Carl Levin said this action marked the 51st consecutive defense authorization bill passed in the Senate.  The SASC had approved the bill in June.

The annual Defense Authorization bill authorizes force levels, programs, and policies (including military pay raises) for DoD budgets.  Appropriations bills provide actual funding (appropriations) for DoD.

The Senate bill authorizes $631 billion:  $526 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) base budget, $17 billion for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program, and $88 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO) in FY2013.

The bill approves the 1.7 percent military pay raise proposed by the president and approved in the House bill.  Regarding the future of military compensation, the bill would establish a “Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission” to review the compensation and retirement systems to ensure the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force and continuing a high quality of life for military families. 

The Senate, agreeing with the House, rejects the administration’s proposal to set enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life, but would allow a small increase in the TRICARE pharmacy co-pay. 

The bill would reduce civilian and contractor personnel by five percent over five years, brining it in line with the five percent cut in military strength through 2017.  This cut to the DoD civilian workforce is deeper than the two to three percent reduction proposed by the administration.

In sharp disagreement with the House, the Senate bill would approve the administration’s proposal to retire 18 Air Force Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs and would not authorize funding an East Coast missile defense site.

The Senate bill supports the budget request for many major investment programs including:  CH-47 and UH-60, and AH-64 Block III helicopters; Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle and STRYKER programs; and F-35 (JSF), F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, and C-130J aircraft.  The bill approves multiyear procurement authority for V-22, Virginia-class submarine, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  The bill would allow incremental funding for another Virginia-class submarine in 2014 and allow the Navy to incrementally fund Ford-class aircraft carriers over six rather than five years.

The military construction authorization request would be reduced by $660 million under the senate bill.  Funding for incrementally-funded construction projects would be cut by $200 million.  The bill prohibits funds to realign Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam until DoD submits a plan showing the costs and schedule for all projects needed to meet the plan.

The Senate adopted over 100 floor amendments before final passage.  An amendment proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would cap contractor salary levels allowable under government contracts at $230,700—down from the current level of $770,000.  The Senate approved other contracting-related amendments, such as increasing the Inspector General oversight role of overseas contingency contracts and requiring DoD to publish information on employees who are looking for defense industry employment.

On foreign policy, the Senate agreed to an amendment by Sen. McCain requiring a report on DoD’s ability to impose a no-fly zone on Syria.  The Senate also endorsed the administration’s timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan and added new sanctions on Iran.

The Senate bill’s funding level is about $4 billion less that the authorized funding level provided in the House-passed bill.   The House bill also authorizes $88 billion for OCO.  House and Senate leaders hope to resolve the differences between the two bills before Congress adjourns at the end of the year. 

Conferees will have to address the administration’s concerns about both bills.  The president issued a veto threat on the House bill’s limitations on nuclear force reductions and restrictions on the transfer of detainees and detainee operations.  The Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the Senate bill identified almost 20 items in the bill with which the administration objected, but that did not link specific actions to a veto.  Rather, the SAP threatened a veto “if the [final] bill is presented to the president for approval in its present form.”