• Senate Armed Services Committee Completes Markup of Defense Authorization
  • June 27, 2011
  • Law Firm: Blank Rome LLP - Philadelphia Office
  • On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday finished marking up its fiscal 2012 defense authorization measure, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Last month, the House passed its version of the bill (HR 1540) that would authorize $690.1 billion for defense programs in fiscal 2012. The bill cuts $684.0 million from excess unobligated balances to encourage better stewardship of taxpayer dollars, based on analysis from GAO.

    The Senate bill funds fully ($3.2 billion) DOD’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) fund, which provides for the sustainment and procurement of MRAPs and M-ATVs. The bill also authorizes $10.4 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, an increase of 6 percent above fiscal year 2011 levels, and more than $2.5 billion for DOD’s counter-improvised explosive device activities. The bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Secretary of the Air Force from taking any action regarding the retirement of the U-2 aircraft until the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics certifies to Congress that the operating and sustainment (O&S) costs for the Global Hawk aircraft are less than the O&S costs for the U-2 aircraft it is intended to replace.

    Additionally, the bill authorizes $2.5 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and DOD to expand threat reduction activities, including securing vulnerable fissile material in 4 years and increasing focus on preventing proliferation globally by expanding threat reduction partnerships. The bill also authorizes $1.1 billion to continue development of the Ohio-class replacement program, SSBN(X), to modernize the sea-based leg of the nuclear deterrent system. It also authorizes $1.1 billion for development and procurement of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) regional missile defense system, including an increase of $20.0 million, to permit improved production rates.

    The Senate committee approved the bill unanimously on Thursday, June 16, 2011 and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

    House Defense Appropriations Bill Advances through Committee

    The 2012 Defense Appropriations Bill passed the House Appropriations Full Committee on Tuesday, providing $530 billion for the Defense Department, which is an $11 billion increase and over the 2011 enacted amount, but $8.9 billion below the administration’s request. When added to a $14 billion Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Committee Appropriations bill that advanced through committee this week, the measure would hand the Pentagon $544 billion next year.

    The spending bill would provide $107.6 billion for procurement, $3.6 billion less than the Pentagon requested, but it would be an increase of $5.5 billion over the 2011 enacted level. It includes provisions to withhold 75 percent of the $1.1 billion allocated for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund until the Defense secretary provides lawmakers with a report on Pakistan. The bill also would provide $118.7 billion — $842 million more than the president’s request — for overseas contingency operations, primarily the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The bill also provides $15.1 billion for 10 Navy ships, $5.9 billion for 32 F-35 fighter jets, and $3.2 billion for mine resistant ambush protected trucks, or MRAPs. Additionally, the bill also would provide $2.8 billion for 116 H-60 Blackhawk helicopters, $699 million for 48 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, and $14.7 million to increase cybersecurity safeguards throughout the department. $8.9 billion in cuts came partly from a reduction to the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile of $435 million, and a cut to the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System of $524 million.

    Although the legislation does not provide funding for a project to build a second F-35 fighter engine, a red-hot political issue for this Congress, the panel adopted an amendment by Kay Granger (R-TX) that would reaffirm the committee’s support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Prime contractors Rolls-Royce and GE have said they will self-fund the F136 engine through 2012; the Pentagon has said for years that it is too expensive and operationally unnecessary.

    Before reporting the bill, the committee raised discretionary spending allocation for the Defense bill’s war funding, raising the bill’s total allocation to $648.7 billion so the measure will not trigger a point of order on the House floor for exceeding its spending limit.

    Congress and White House Standoff, House Threatens Libya Funding

    House Republicans may bring a measure to the floor as early as next week expressing concern that President Obama has not justified continuing the US military intervention in Libya without congressional approval. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not specify what that measure would entail, stating, "We're looking at those options, and my guess is that next week we may be prepared to move on those options based on the answers to the questions that we get¿the ultimate option is¿the Congress has the power of the purse. And certainly that is an option as well.”

    Boehner said he is not satisfied with the latest policy explanation sent to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and gave the White House until Friday to further address his questions about the legal basis for the administration’s view that military action against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime does not require congressional approval. White House press secretary Jay Carney said no further explanation is likely to be offered, adding that the administration has thoroughly informed lawmakers about its policy and legal reasoning.

    Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, presidents must obtain Congress’s authorization when they insert U.S. forces into “hostilities.” That authorization must be obtained within 60 days — or 90 days, under certain circumstances. Obama’s response, delivered Wednesday, was that the Libyan operation should not count as “hostilities.” The administration said this is because there are no American ground troops in Libya, and because US naval and air forces play largely supporting roles in a NATO-led operation. Remote-controlled US drones have carried out some attacks on Gaddafi forces.

    It is important to note that any House-passed funding restriction would have to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed by Obama himself, making it difficult for the House to force the president’s hand. However, it is also is unclear what will happen next in the Senate, which is already considering one resolution that would support the Libyan operation, and another that would rebuke Obama for starting it without asking Congress first.

    Armed Services Committee Approves Panetta Nomination, Petraeus Hearing Set for Thursday

    After his appearance before the Senate Armed Services last Thursday for his confirmation hearing, the Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved Leon Panetta's nomination to become US Secretary of Defense. The Armed Services Committee sent the matter to the full Senate, which approve the nomination Tuesday afternoon. The roll call vote is mainly to give senators a chance to make speeches and get on the record before easily confirming him as expected.

    Panetta, the current CIA chief, has been widely praised for last month's successful covert operation to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and is expected to win a Senate floor vote to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Panetta is expected to be succeeded at the Central Intelligence Agency by Army Gen. David Petraeus, who was making rounds on Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with senators to smooth his path toward confirmation. The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a June 23 confirmation hearing for Petraeus.

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    Quote of the Week

    "I caution my friends, both here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, that we don't want to do anything or pass legislation which would encourage Gadhafi to remain in power"

    Sen. John McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Commit