December 21, 2014

Lawmakers Continue Poor Habits with Defense Appropriations Mark-Up

  • Defense spending accounts for roughly half of the portion of the budget referred to as discretionary spending, which is determined through the annual...

House Lawmakers returned to their old habits during a markup of the $570.4 billion defense appropriations bill, protecting expensive weapons projects favored by lawmakers while ignoring many of the cost-saving initiatives the Pentagon proposed in its Fiscal 2015 budget request.

Like the defense authorization bill approved last week by the House, the defense appropriations bill ignores many of the cost-saving reforms the Pentagon has proposed to keep spending within the spending caps set by the Budget Control Act and modified for Fiscal 2014 and 2015 by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. After Fiscal 2015, spending caps for all discretionary spending will be lower than the caps for the Fiscal 2014 and 2015.

Some of the reforms the bill ignores include retiring an aircraft carrier, smaller housing allowances for soldiers and a lower annual raise in basic pay. The appropriations bill even calls for purchasing more Growler and F-35 aircraft than what is prescribed in the authorization bill.

To stay within the spending caps this year set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, appropriators cut funding from operations and maintenance accounts, although they took steps designed to protect readiness operations. So far operations and maintenance accounts have absorbed the majority of cuts to military spending.

The appropriations bill also includes the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which funds overseas operations, including the war in Afghanistan, and is exempt from BCA spending caps. Lawmakers have recently criticized other lawmakers and military leaders who transfer funding from the military’s base budget to the OCO to avoid sequestration and lower spending caps.

The last two weeks have shown that policymakers refuse to make the difficult decisions on reforms to reduce military spending while maintaining a strong and balanced force. Policymakers should seriously consider reforms the Pentagon has proposed or put forward their own proposals reforming military spending.