Saturday, May 5, 2012

Washington Perspective -- HASC SubCommittee Marks

Next week the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) meets to decide the FY13 Authorization Bill [called the FY 13 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)].  The process is called “Markup.”   In anticipation of the meeting next week, each subcommittee of the HASC markedup last week.  All the various elements of each subcommittee will be folded together to produce the Committee bill.  The HASC will debate, reconcile, then vote on the bill and all amendments, then file the committee report to the Clerk of the House.  Then the leadership and Rules Committee sequence it to the floor for debate, amendments, and votes.
This process will be repeated in the Senate by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).  When versions of both Bills have passed each Chamber of Congress, the leadership in each chamber will appoint Members to go to a conference committee where the final bill will be decided.  The final bill will then go back to each Chamber for approval.  Then it will be sent to the President for signature.

Simultaneously, the Appropriations Committees in each chamber are involved in a similar process.  The House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D) and the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D) markup their respective bills, send them to the full committee which debates, amends, and passes them.  They next go the floor of each Chamber, then to conference committee, then back to each Chamber for final approval; then to the President. 
This same process occurs in other parts of the national security budget.  Military Construction is authorized under the HASC/SASC but appropriated by the Veterans Affairs Subcommittees.  Intelligence funding is overseen by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Jurisdictions vary between chambers and between the intelligence and defense committees regarding military and national intelligence programs. The part of the Energy budget that supports DOD is authorized by HASC/SASC but appropriated in the Energy budget by the Energy Subcommittees of the Appropriation Committees.
To say this is nuanced … and complicated is an understatement.  And the above is a simplification of the actual process.  But the main point is that the Air Force, depending on the issue, sometimes has to go to as many as eight committees to support its budget request.
For funds to be appropriated they are supposed to first be authorized … but this does not always happen.  One famous example was the tanker lease.  O&M funds were appropriated and the AF was told to lease tankers.  They did as they were told … only to be caught in a fight between the “authorizers” and the “appropriators.”  The program was not authorized specifically … but neither was it prohibited.  DOD lawyers told the AF to go ahead.   But … as this group knows, there is much more to this story.
Back to the HASC Subcommittee Markup.  It is but the first step on a long process.  However, it is an important one … that sets the pace for the rest of the legislative session.  You can find a summary of the various subcommittee marks here:
On two key issues on which I have heard from many of you – on the bottom of page 4 and top of page 5 – the subcommittee did not accept the Administration's proposed TRICARE fees and increases.  They went further and said: 
“This section would express the sense of Congress that career members of the uniformed services and their families endure unique and extraordinary demands and make extraordinary sacrifices over the course of a military career and those decades of sacrifice constitute a significant pre-paid premium for health care during a career member’s retirement that is over and above what the member pays with money.”
Thank you to those of you who wrote letters and talked with your members of Congress – but remember this issue is not over.  AFA has played an important and prominent role in opposing these increases and will continue to do so. 
On page 5, the subcommittee directed the Secretary of Defense to establish a Unified Medical Command.  AFA believes this increase in overhead will actually cost more than it will save and is unnecessary bureaucracy.  We will be working with committee staffs to try to get them to reconsider this mark.
Finally, every one of my Washington Perspective notes is online in this section of our website:
The top part of this page contain all past notes.  The bottom part contains reference materials.
For your consideration.

Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association
“The only thing more expensive than a first-rate Air Force is … a second-rate Air Force.”  --  Senate staff member

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