House Committee Advances Authorization Bill

House Committee Advances Authorization Bill

House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry’s plan to trim spending by defense support agencies on real estate management, services contracting, civilian resources management and logistics management by 25 percent by 2021 appeared largely unchanged after the committee’s marathon markup of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill wrapped up early Thursday morning. The committee, which reported the measure to the floor on a 60-1 vote, called for allocating $708 billion in discretionary spending to the Pentagon, reported CQ.

The committee rejected an amendment from Anthony Brown (D-Md.) that would have required a study of the efficiencies of the Washington Headquarters Services, the single support agency the draft bill would eliminate under the chairman’s initiative to reform the department’s fourth estate. An earlier version of bill language released by Thornberry called for eliminating seven support agencies, including, the Office of Economic Adjustment, but the chairman scaled back the proposal in the version he released Monday.

Thornberry pointed to the Washington Headquarters Service, which he said has experienced a doubling of its civilian workforce over the past decade, as the logical place to start the process of reducing bureaucracy. “If you want to talk about how we can find efficiencies and get more into the hands of the war fighter,” Thornberry said, “all of the discussions that we’ve had over the years about how we’ve got to self-fund some of the improvements in procurement and weapons systems and so forth, if we can’t deal with an agency that has grown by 100 percent then I worry about whether we’re going to be able to deal with any of them.”

A separate amendment from Brown passed, however, on a 33-28 vote. It would require the department to study the feasibility of “transferring all information technology, contracting and acquisition services” currently housed in the Defense Information Systems Agency to other agencies within the Pentagon. The underlying bill calls for the Pentagon’s chief management officer to carry out such a transfer by Jan. 1, 2021.

Starting Wednesday morning, the committee worked through hundreds of amendments. It voted 33-28 to adopt an amendment by Steve Russell (R-Okla.) which would allow the department to offer free leases for banks that would serve military bases. Banks provide a valuable service and can serve as an alternative to predatory lenders, Russell said.

Photo by David Gleason

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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