In contrast to the budget maneuver employed by its House counterpart, the Senate Armed Services Committee does not rely on DOD’s wartime account to sidestep the statutory spending caps and bolster the Pentagon’s base budget, under the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill the panel approved Thursday.
After the committee finished marking up its annual defense policy bill in closed session, Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters he planned to seek additional funding when the measure goes to the Senate floor, reported Defense News.
“We went to the president’s mark, and then we will be looking to increase funding for much-needed programs on the floor,” McCain said.
The committee adhered to the Obama administration’s request and shifted only $5 billion from the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which is not subject to the Budget Control Act limits. The House Armed Services dedicated an additional $18 billion from the uncapped account to base budget needs in an effort to restore shortfalls in military readiness.
The Senate version, however, would authorize an increase of $2 billion for additional training, depot maintenance and weapons sustainment.
“While the committee believes this is a positive step in the right direction, these additions were not enough to address the nearly $23 billion in unfunded requirements identified by the military services, almost $7 billion of which alone were considered readiness-related,” according to a committee summary of the measure.
“Artificial budget constraints … have limited the committee’s ability to authorize a strategy-based level of defense funding demanded by the threats facing the nation and the ever-growing demands they impose on our military service members,” the committee said.
The Pentagon and White House have criticized the budget maneuver employed by House Armed Services, saying it would shortchange overseas operations and force the next administration to request supplemental war funding before it runs out at the end of April.
The conflicting approaches to funding the Pentagon adopted by the two panels could be difficult to resolve and likely set up a contentious budget battle at the end of the year.
“This is a hard thing to resolve,” Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense News. “We have a significant disagreement, and looking at the legislative calendar, there will not be that much time to resolve it.”