The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a $604.5 billion defense bill that was practically obsolete even before it was passed.
“You don’t see me smiling,” said committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) after the bill’s Aug. 2 markup.
The reason: House and Senate leadership have reached an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution that would fund the government at the level ordered by the Budget Control Act passed one year ago.
By next March, half of the fiscal year will be over. And if the election in November shifts control of the Senate to Republicans, the bill could be in for changes. “There would be some additional work,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), the committee’s top Republican.
So far, the agreement on the continuing resolution does not include anything that would avert a $1 trillion, across-the-board government spending cut scheduled to take place on Jan. 2, 2013.
Debate on the defense bill centered more on that penalty for failing to reach a deficit reduction-agreement — sequestration — than it did on the actual defense budget.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered and then withdrew a symbolic resolution to use the recommendations by a commission on deficit reduction led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to buy down at least the first year of sequestration. Then he offered another amendment that would direct federal contractors to notify their employees of potential sequestration-induced job losses. The amendment failed, but it touched off a lengthy partisan discussion about whether or not sequestration is predictable enough for contractors to be bound by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Substantively, the bill continues funding’s (Meads) at $348 million to end the U.S. international commitment to the program or to fund termination costs. Three other congressional defense committees have killed funding for Meads.
The Senate panel also funded the Pentagon’s effort to purchase biofuels, something that the three other congressional defense panels rejected.
But the committee followed the House and Senate defense committees in other areas. The Senate committee voted to pause for one year the Air Force’s force structure recommendation, and it adds $800 million to make up for those cuts, largely directed at the Air National Guard, during fiscal 2013.
The bill allows the Pentagon to use funding from previous years to keep alive’s Block 30 program and Alenia’s Spartan program.
The committee adds $60 million for advance procurement ofGrowler aircraft. And it adds $163 million for AN-TPY 2 radar and $189 million for additional SM-3 Block 1B interceptors.
The bill fully funds the Next Generation bomber and Prompt Global Strike programs.