Christmas in July for the Pentagon
If you’re a military contractor - all signs point to plenty of goodies in your stocking by the end of this year.
Weekly Wastebasket | No.27
‘Tis the season: Christmas in July. Because it’s definitely Christmas if you’re a Pentagon contractor with all signs pointing to plenty of goodies in your stocking by the end of this year.
Cast your mind back to May when the Trump administration released its first complete budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. The Pentagon request totals $639 billion. Of that total, $574 billion is in the so-called “base budget” and $65 billion is requested through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. The OCO account is “off-budget” and, therefore, doesn’t count against the caps for Defense and non-Defense spending established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
"The Senate version of the authorizing legislation would cost a stupendous $700 billion."
As we’ve said many times at TCS, OCO may be off-budget but it still adds to our massive deficit.
Now the Congress is lurching toward both its long August recess and the start of Fiscal Year 2018 on the first of October. These deadlines are, finally, prompting a flurry of legislation. Keep in mind, all of these bills to set policy or fund the Pentagon are being debated and voted on before we know what thisadministration’s strategy is for the use of military forces.
First steps in the House of Representatives occurred in the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) where they write the Pentagon policy bill every year. This is not legislation that can cause even a single dollar to be spent by the U.S. Treasury; that power is reserved to the Appropriations Committees. However, the policies do have dollar figures that are “authorized” by the legislation. According to the committee press release, the policies set by its version of the bill would give the Pentagon $695.9 billion, of which $74.6 billion would be in the OCO account.
Included in the HASC version of the bill are several questionable items. Among these is a highly suspicious bit of report language requiring the Secretary of the Navy to explain how the recent decision to modernize Navy outerwear by replacing the peacoat of the 1700s with something waterproof will affect the “domestic textile industrial base.” ::Cough – the sheep and wool industries – cough:: The HASC also specifically forbids a new round of base closure. At TCS we agree with many in the budget watchdog and think tank communities that abase closure commission is necessary to reduce unnecessary Pentagon infrastructure.
The Senate version of the authorizing legislation would cost a stupendous $700 billion, with $60 billion in the OCO account (less than the amount requested by the Trump administration.) The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) stopped short of forbidding base closure, but it didn’t include language directing a new commission either. And, unfortunately, the SASC allows the Air Force to continue its ridiculous crusade to keep the contract value of the B-21 a secret. Chairman McCain tried to end this charade last year and was unsuccessful. We encouraged him to try again this year, but that didn’t happen.
Finally, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) released its first cut at the spending bill for the Pentagon – a bill with actual budget consequences since it will ultimately set the amount of money the Pentagon has to spend. The House appropriators give the Pentagon a total of $658 billion (almost $20 billion above the original request) and put $73.9 billion of that in the “off-budget” OCO account. But while the HAC would hand out a lot of cash, it also told the Pentagon several things it can’t do – no base closure, no moving a particular Air Force wing out of one powerful appropriator’s district, and no changes to Picatinny Arsenal in the Chairman’s district, among others. And it continued several so-called “Buy American” requirements for anchor and mooring chain, steel plate, ball bearings, etc.
The House appropriators, as they do every year, also told the Pentagon to fund several programs for which the administration requested zero dollars. In other words, in a request totaling almost $640 billion, the Pentagon couldn’t manage to request a dime for these programs. Never fear, the House appropriators are here! The list of programs that went from zero to hero totals $3.2 billion and you can find a line by line description here.
One bit of good news, that decades-old requirement to ship American coal to Germany to fuel several U.S. military installations there was not included in the House version of the Pentagon appropriations bill. That’s a teensy bit of good news for the taxpayer.
So, while other Pentagon contractors are celebrating Christmas in July, looks like a portion of the Pennsylvania coal industry will find a lump of coal in its stocking this year. ◻