NTU urges all Representatives to vote “NO” on H.R. 2685, the Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Act of 2016. This legislation falls far short of the fiscal restraint and reform taxpayers urgently need.
H.R. 2685 marks a significant missed opportunity to restrain military spending and address longstanding waste at the Pentagon, amid persistent debt and deficits that continue to create economic uncertainty. Rather than pursuing substantial prioritization and efficiencies, the DoD appropriations legislation resorts to gimmicks in order to keep spending authorizations within the caps mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. The legislation does the Pentagon and taxpayers no favors by once again ducking vital choices and making future changes all the harder to implement.
For instance, H.R. 2685 perpetuates wasteful spending by funding 65 troubled F-35 joint strike fighters, 8 over the Pentagon’s request. The legislation does include a report that would limit procurement to a mere 36 until problems with the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) are resolved. While this modest restriction provides taxpayers with some protection, the bigger question is why precious fiscal resources would be spent on any planes, let alone 36, that have persistent performance problems. A recent Government Accountability Office report emphasized that increasing production before major technical issues (such as the ALIS) are solved could compound risks and costs to taxpayers. Congress should be delaying rather than increasing F-35 procurement until these concerns are remedied.
Equally if not more disturbing, the legislation funds an unjustifiable Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account plus-up of more than $37 billion over the Pentagon’s original $50.9 billion request. The recently House-passed National Defense Authorization Act earmarked these additional funds for so-called “Overseas Contingency Operations for Base Budget Requirements,” which the Congressional Budget Office notes “in recent years have counted against defense caps.” This dramatic increase lacks sufficient strategic rationalization and further exacerbates the problematic accounting that comes from relying on the OCO slush-fund to avoid the tough spending decisions necessary to restore fiscal responsibility at the Pentagon.
Such large boosts in one area of federal outlays will inevitably invite spending hikes elsewhere and was the very reason why the BCA was designed to apply so broadly.
Still, lawmakers have the opportunity to improve on the underlying legislation and to that end, NTU urges Representatives to vote as follows on amendments to H.R. 2685:
- “YES” on Huffman (D-CA)/McClintock (R-CA) Anthracite Coal Amendment: This amendment would strike Section 8053, eliminating a longstanding set-aside program that requires tons of anthracite coal to be shipped from northeastern Pennsylvania to military bases in Germany, where it is used to heat facilities. Initially enacted in 1961, this provision today costs taxpayers $20 million a year and is long overdue for repeal.
- “NO” on Forbes (R-VA)/Courtney (D-CT) Sea-Based Deterrence Fund Amendment: One of the few areas where H.R. 2685 succeeds is by prohibiting the transfer of funds to the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund. This rightly ensures that monies for the Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacement is paid for out of the Navy’s ship-building accounts, not the general Defense-wide procurement budget where this massive program would squeeze out other priorities and necessarily force massive budget increases in the future. Deeming this program a “national asset” opens the door for other branches to shift spending toward darker corners of the general budget, masking the true cost of procurement, and further avoiding the spending prioritization taxpayers need.
Roll call votes on H.R. 2685 and the above amendments to H.R. 2685 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress; a “NO” vote on H.R. 2685 will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.
If you have any questions, please contact NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift at (703) 683-5700