House Armed Services Committee Authorizes Defense Spending Bill for FY 2012

Government Relations Update - Defense

The House Armed Services Committee approved on Thursday the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012, a spending measure that clears the Pentagon and Energy Department to spend nearly $700 billion next fiscal year.  After a marathon markup session beginning Wednesday and spanning early into Thursday, the panel approved a baseline Pentagon spending level of $553 billion, matching the Obama administration's request.  The bill also authorized $18 billion for national security programs at the Energy Department and $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before marking up sections of the bill, the committee gave voice vote approval to a separate resolution requesting the administration provide in-depth information related to military action in Libya.  The resolution (H Res 208), sponsored by Tom Cole (R-OK), would require the Secretary of Defense to provide Congress—within 14 days of adoption—any communication it provided to U.S. lawmakers as of February 15 related to the military action in Libya, including the U.S.-led mission Operation Odyssey Dawn or the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector.

The committee adopted a provision that would trigger a competition to build F-35 fighter engine if certain improvements are made to the primary power plant, but killed an amendment to strip $380 million from the F-35 program by cutting the planned buy of the Marines' B variant by two jets.  The committee approved a provision that would limit money for a program to replace the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV, until the Navy provides Congress with a cost analysis for the replacement program.  The vehicle, which would be used by Marines to travel swiftly by sea and then drive on land, was terminated by the Defense Department earlier this year over cost concerns.  Seapower Subcommittee Chair Todd Akin (R-MO) had raised concerns that the proposed replacements would not perform as well. 

The committee also approved authorizing $14.9 billion for 10 new warships, including two Virginia-class submarines, one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, four Littoral Combat Ships, one San Antonio-class amphibious ship, one mobile landing platform ship and one joint high-speed vessel.  Lawmakers also approved authorizing $10.5 billion for the U.S. Special Operations Command, a 7 percent increase over FY 2011 enacted levels. They also approved authorizing $261.1 billion for operations and maintenance, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The committee also engaged in a partisan debate over various amendments brought by Republicans that would put a number of stipulations on the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty the Obama administration hammered out last year with Russia. The Senate has ratified that pact, but House GOP members want to make sure this—and future—presidents live up to terms of the deal made to secure ratification.  The panel also adopted a contentious amendment that would not allow implementation of a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” until all the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the change would not be harmful to the military and “will not degrade the readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, and morale of combat arms units.”

The $690 billion defense authorization measure is expected to hit the House floor the week of May 23.

Lawmakers Oppose White House Plan for Contractor Gift Disclosure

House and Senate lawmakers are at odds with the Obama administration regarding the White House’s plan to require contractors to disclose campaign contributions.  Several members of Congress question whether the plan would increase transparency in the procurement process while insulating companies from charges that awards are politically motivated.  A draft executive order, released in April, would require companies bidding on agency contracts to release a list of contributions or political expenditures that total in excess of $5,000 made on behalf of federal candidates, parties or political action committees.  Contractors also would be required to disclose contributions to third-party nonprofit groups—known as a 501(c)(4) organizations—in which the company has the "reasonable expectation" that the funds would be used to pay for electioneering communications such as paid advertisements.

A bipartisan group of Senators from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rob Portman (R-OH), composed a letter to the president on Thursday, urging him to reconsider his position on the proposed mandated disclosures.  The Senators wrote that while they share Obama's "commitment to ensuring that the federal contracting process is not influenced by political activity or favoritism," they also worry that requiring "businesses to disclose their political activity when making an offer risks injecting politics into the contracting process."

The White House proposal has also sparked a rare display of consensus among party leadership in the House.  Earlier this week, House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced his opposition to the proposal, saying that he thinks the issue on contracting “ought to be on the merits of the contractor's application and bid and capabilities. I think there are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts."  These comments allowed for a response from House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who stated this week, "Certainly, I am in agreement with the Democratic whip."

House Appropriations Releases Markup Schedule

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers announced on Wednesday the schedule for the completion of work on the twelve FY 2012 Appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year on September 30.  The plan includes marking up and approving each bill at both the Subcommittee and Full Committee levels before the August recess.

FY 2012 Appropriations Markup by Subcommittee

Homeland Security

Subcommittee: May 13

Full Committee: May 23

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: May 13

Full Committee: May 23

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: May 24

Full Committee: May 31


Subcommittee: June 1

Full Committee: June 14

Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: June 2

Full Committee: June 15

Legislative Branch

Subcommittee: June 2

Full Committee: June 15

Financial Services

Subcommittee: June 16

Full Committee: June 23

Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: July 6

Full Committee: July 11

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: July 7

Full Committee: July 13

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and

Related Agencies

Subcommittee: July 14

Full Committee: July 26

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and

Related Agencies

Subcommittee: July 26

Full Committee: August 2

State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies

Subcommittee: July 27

Full Committee: August 3

Senate Committee Shifts

Due to Senator Ensign’s early departure from the Senate and the resulting swearing-in of Dean Heller, here is the new breakdown:

  • Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) will sit on the Commerce, Energy, and Aging Committees;
  • Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) will sit on the Finance Committee;
  • Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-HH) will move to Budget; and
  • Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) will now sit on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs.

 Quote of the Week

“The recent storms that swept the Southeast and the death of Osama Bin Laden serve as sobering reminders of our nation’s continued need for robust national security and disaster recovery. The bill recognizes the critical importance of the homeland security mission—fully funding all intelligence and watch listing functions, as well as all frontline personnel. The bill also reflects the unquestioned need for fiscal restraint, reduces spending wherever possible, and prioritizes taxpayers’ limited dollars toward the vital security programs that will have an immediate impact on our nation’s safety and security.”

– Rep. Robert Aderholdt (R-NJ), on the release of the FY 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill

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