The White House opposes several of the reforms in the House’s fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill intended to streamline Pentagon bureaucracy, including language that would eliminate the Washington Headquarters Services and reorganize the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Overall, the Statement of Administration Policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday supports H.R. 5515, while objecting to about 40 individual provisions.
Rather than eliminating the Washington Headquarters Services, the White House urges lawmakers to include it in the review the legislation calls for of defense agencies and field activities. That review would be carried out by the Pentagon’s chief management officer (CMO) and assess the efficiency and effectiveness of DOD support activities while looking for potential duplication. The bill directs the CMO to report to Congress on any recommendations to eliminate an agency or activity, or transfer some or all of its functions to another department entity.
Transferring all information technology contracting, acquisition, and senior leader communication services from DISA to other DOD elements “would increase the cost of acquiring information technology, weaken the department’s ability to secure its cyber networks, and inhibit DISA’s mission to provide seamless communication to warfighters and senior leaders,” according to the OMB statement.
The White House also objects to a provision that would expand the CMO’s authority, a key aspect of House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry’s attempt to reform the department’s fourth estate. That section would authorize the CMO to carry out the elimination of agencies and activities, and to maximize efficiency across DOD for civilian resource management, logistics, services contracting and real estate management functions. The CMO would be required to certify that the department has achieved at least 25 percent savings from those functions by Jan. 1, 2021.
“Section 911 would create contradictory and conflicting authorities and relationships between the CMO and office of the secretary of defense principal staff assistants. While the department appreciates the congressional intent, the CMO has all of the necessary authorities required to oversee efficiency and effectiveness related to the business aspect of covered activities,” OMB states.
The House began debating H.R. 5515 Tuesday evening, adopting 98 amendments by voice vote and putting off roll call votes on four more controversial ones until Wednesday, reported CQ. Also on Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee was expected to allow votes on several other potentially contentious amendments. The chamber is expected to debate the bill through at least Wednesday.
The bill text and committee report for H.R. 5515 can be found on the House Rules Committee website.
Photo by Carmen Stevenson