Armed Services chairman releases $521B defense spending bill
By Martin Matishak - 05/05/14 02:17 PM EDT
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Monday released a defense budget blueprint that denies most of the Pentagon’s cost-saving proposals for the next fiscal year while striking compromises on key weapons systems and compensation.
The markup of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act put out by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) allows $521.3 billion in spending for defense and an additional $79.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations to pay for the war in Afghanistan and other U.S. operations around the globe.
The proposed legislation also lays out a possible concession on the retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fleet, a proposal that has raised loud and sustained criticism by Republicans in both chambers.
McKeon’s plan states that the A-10, commonly referred to as the “Warthog,” cannot be retired “unless placed in Type 1000,” or long-term, storage, in order to “facilitate its quick return to the force should resource trends improve,” according to a fact sheet that accompanied the bill.
In another potential compromise, the chairman’s bill endorses an administration request to freeze the pay for general and flag officers in the coming fiscal year while coming out in support of a standing mandate to boost troop pay by 1.8 percent annually.
The proposed bill also largely backs decisions made last week by the committee’s subpanels, including the rejection of a proposed new round of base closures in 2017 and the cancellation of the Pentagon’s proposed changes to military compensation.
The Defense Department wanted to reform TRICARE, the healthcare plan for military families, as well as require troops to kick in up to 6 percent for their housing and slash commissary subsidies.
McKeon embraced the text reported out by the Military Personnel subpanel that nixed all of those proposals, delaying any alterations until the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission delivers its recommendations in early 2015.
The bill also blocks the White House’s plan to retire an aircraft carrier by requiring the administration to fuel and overhaul the U.S.S. George Washington. In addition, the bill seeks to change the name of the Department of the Navy to the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.
McKeon’s blueprint puts off any decision about the force mix between active duty service members and Nation Guard reservists until the full committee convenes on May 7. National Guard proponents have come out strong against an Army initiative that would cut the reserve force by 15,000.
The Military Personnel subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), and Rep. William Enyart (D-Ill.) will offer an amendment on the balance between the two sides during the full committee markup, the fact sheet states.
Internationally, the proposed authorization bill prohibits U.S. military contact and cooperation with the Russian military until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel certifies that Moscow is “no longer illegally occupying Crimea” and that the Kremlin is compliant with certain international treaties.
McKeon would also require the Pentagon to submit a “sustainment plan” for the Afghan National Security Forces through 2018.
In addition, the legislation would cut off aid to Pakistan until Hagel confirms Islamabad is not restricting U.S. supply routes in the region and is taking action against terrorist organizations.