By Rebekah Johansen, Rare Contributor
The House and Senate have reached an agreement on proceeding with this year’s National Defense Authorization Act — and it’s bad news for those who care about budget cuts. The House filed its version of the final agreement on Wednesday passed the bill on Thursday, and the Senate will likely move on the deal next week.
Some of the most controversial provisions — and one that had snagged negotiations — has to do with military benefits. Under the final deal, troops would receive a 1-percent pay raise, along with slowed growth in their housing allowance and a $3 increase in most prescription co-pays.
Beyond the controversies, key parts of this legislation should concern everyone who cares about the budget. This measure authorizes $521 billion in base military spending and nearly $64 billion more in overseas contingency funds, including about $5 billion for the current fight in Iraq and Syria.
Not only do these levels blow past spending caps and add more war funds to an already bloated slush fund, they throttle important opportunities for spending reform.
- Preventing the Defense Department from retiring the A-10, despite the fact that the Air Force itself wants to retire the aging weapon, the only concession being decreased flight hours and maintenance after the completion of a readiness study.
- Blocking the Army’s plans to retire any Army National Guard Apache helicopters next year.
- Authorizing President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS militants.
In addition, according to a press release from Senator Ted Cruz, the measure includes quite a few provisions that are tenuously related to national security — if at all.
- 250,000 acres of new wilderness designations 400,000 acres withdrawn from productive use (for energy, mining, timber, etc.)
- Fifteen new national park units or park expansions
- Eight new studies for national parks
- Three new wild and scenic river designations, 3 new studies for additional designations
- Study to begin the National Women’s History Museum
Not every item on these lists can solve our budget crisis alone. But unwillingness even to consider reform is yet another troubling sign that Congress has no intention of continuing with even very modest spending cuts of past years. Keeping America safe requires smart budgeting, not politically motivated boondoggles.
As the new members come to Washington, it’s all the more important to remind them of their campaign promises and their duty to keep America safe with sound budgets.