Defense Bill Impasse Brewing

June 12, 2015

On June 9, Senate appropriators approved a controversial draft of the FY16 defense budget.   

The budget drew criticism from the White House, saying that lawmakers used "budget gimmicks" to exceed budget caps put in place by sequestration. The Senate budget exceeds budget caps by $37 billion.  

The budget defies spending caps by funding base operations using special war accounts. War accounts are not subject to sequestration.  

House lawmakers used similar budget maneuvers to pass its version of the defense spending bill on June 11.   

The White House insists that any increases in defense spending must include increases in domestic programs. The administration has threatened to veto the bill if sent to the White House.  

"With a veto threat, we're looking at another budget impasse this fall," said Col. Phil Odom, USAF (Ret), MOAA's deputy director for Government Relations. "Without a bipartisan solution, there's a very real possibility of another government shutdown."   

Pentagon officials are also cool to the idea of using war accounts to bridge the gap between budget caps and its spending request.  

"If this were a one-year, temporary fix you might justify it," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). "But what we're seeing is a pathway that [Congress is] going to take every year …. That's the way, unfortunately, it tends to be around here."

What's needed is a common sense alternative to sequestration's arbitrary budget caps. Congress needs to repeal sequestration and give Pentagon leaders a properly allocated budget.