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NTU Opposes NDAA That Could Spark Budget Battle

by Nan Swift / /

NTU urges all Representatives to vote “NO” on H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This legislation rejects commonsense opportunities to reduce wasteful spending and perpetuates poor fiscal practices that have become the hallmark of Congress’ approach to national defense policies. In doing so, H.R. 2810 exacerbates our growing spending crisis and sets up yet another major budget fight.

For more than five years, former Joint Chief Admiral Mike Mullen has been sounding the alarm on the threat our debt poses to national security. Still, Congress and the Committees responsible for setting the policies that guide our national security continue to ignore this warning by doubling down on eminently avoidable wasteful spending. A prime example in H.R. 2810 being the authorization of 87 F-35s, 17 more than requested by the Pentagon, and a three-year block-buy commitment that further ensnares both taxpayers and our military. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly raised concerns about this troubled program, as its life-cycle costs continue to rise, performance problems abound, and only last month an entire wing was grounded due to oxygen issues. Likewise, despite repeated red flags from multiple agencies, the legislation authorizes three Littoral Combat Ships, above even the amended Administration request.

NTU echoes the Administration’s Statement of Policy on H.R. 2810 in expressing dismay that the legislation directs the construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX), a project 41 years behind schedule, billions over budget, and with zero potential customers. We urge the Secretary of Energy to use a new waiver authority to terminate MOX immediately. Another misguided provision, from the perspective of both NTU and the Administration, is the “annual” prohibition on the Department of Defense (DOD) from embarking on a scheduled round of Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). This is particularly troubling because the Pentagon claims a 22 percent excess base capacity and BRAC holds the potential to generate compounding savings for years to come.

H.R. 2810 also perpetuates the use of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account as a budget-cap workaround. A shift of $10 billion in base-budget funding and $443 million for military construction overtly dispenses with any notion of “contingency,” increasing the likelihood that the OCO slush-fund is a permanent fixture, not a short-term anomaly, of government accounting.

Negotiation of the FY18 NDAA was marked by assertions that DOD needed a new direction, amid claims that past financial restrictions had inflicted serious damage to our national security. Those assertions are debatable, and many readiness concerns might have been assuaged by tough decision making and reprogramming funds to address that priority. Instead, H.R. 2810 is more of the same unaffordable spending, seemingly devoid of strategic imperative. By exceeding the caps created by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), the legislation expands on past wasteful practices, making future reforms all the more difficult and our military less nimble.

In addition, authorizing a topline number $72 billion over the BCA caps (OCO aside) - which coincides with an agreement to budget and appropriate to the same number - deliberately triggers another budget-battle royale to avoid sequestration’s across-the-board cuts. Congress has demonstrated via several deals to side-step the caps  a repeated inability to restrain spending by even the most modest of reductions. H.R. 2810 is a clear signal to taxpayers that Congress will again turn a blind eye toward the enormous debt that weighs down our economy.

NTU urges Congress to reduce excessive spending in H.R. 2810 while simultaneously pursuing reductions in other parts of the discretionary budget.  In the absence of serious fiscal restraint, Congress will most likely find that it is simplest to raise caps across the board and worsen our nation’s fiscal outlook.

Roll call votes on H.R. 2810 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.

(This is the first of several vote alerts regarding H.R. 2810 that will be issued as amendments are made in order.)