By RUSSELL RUMBAUGH
On Wednesday, both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense marked up their FY14 bills. Despite approval on the same day in the same chamber run by the same party, their bills provide very different funding for DoD.
Both of them ignore sequester, but that’s not terribly interesting since every step in the budgetary process has ignored that sequester is the law of the land.
What is interesting is the divergence in the two bills on how much money DoD gets.
HASC matches the President’s request for DoD with $526.6B, which in turn meets the pre-sequester caps required by the amended Budget Control Act. Some have mistakenly said HASC’s bill was significantly higher than the President’s request. But the larger number, $552B, covers all of national defense spending, not just DoD but all of budget function 050, which includes our nation’s nukes and other defense spending. The HASC bill matches the President’s request for this broader pot.
HAC-D, in contrast, only provides $521.9B, almost $5B less than either the President or HASC. We know this because the Defense subcommittee bill includes $512.0B for DoD* and the already reported MILCON-VA bill provides $10.0B for DoD. Add them together and you get the almost $5B markdown.
Its not unusual for appropriators to provide less than the authorizers. It is unusual for them to report their bills on the same day highlighting the discrepancy between the bills. Usually the two bills come out months apart obscuring the discrepancy (an obscurity aided by the differences in accounting).
That discrepancy in turn highlights that the House is willing to acknowledge that defense spending isn’t sacred to Republicans anymore, which is what has made the supposedly ‘unthinkable’ sequester a reality.
The two committees do agree on providing $85.8B for war funding–$6B more than the President. They also said they would provide international affairs $6.5B in war funding–twice what the President had requested. We’ve long noted that because war funding is exempt from the BCA caps, it would be a sore temptation to use it to provide more funding (and Gordon has already noted the administration’s first move on exploiting this safety valve). But up until now in the BCA era, Congress had not provided more than the President’s original request. For the first time, we’re seeing that reticence disappear and an extra $10B provided in the war funding. It’ll be interesting if the Senate committees follow suit, and we see war funding become the free money BCA allows it to be.