Lawmakers Already Eyeing Debt Limit Workarounds to Boost Defense Budget

the steps and dome of the Capitol building

U.S. Capitol Building – USGS

The ink hasn’t dried on the debt deal that placed limits on defense spending, but lawmakers are already discussing potential workarounds to add more funding to the Pentagon’s coffers in FY24. The debt agreement put an $895 billion cap on defense spending in FY24, which is the amount requested by the administration earlier this year.

It was already clear that additional money would end up flowing into a supplemental spending bill to provide security assistance to Ukraine, a process that is not subject to the spending caps in the debt ceiling agreement. Some lawmakers are now pushing to include funding for the U.S. military in the supplemental spending bills as well, which would effectively nullify the new spending caps. This method was used to bypass Budget Control Act spending limits from the past decade.

Several Republicans, as well as some Democrats, have voiced a desire to inject additional funding for the DoD into an upcoming supplemental spending bill. “When you have a supplemental for Ukraine, I’m hoping we’ll use that as an opportunity to repair the damage done by this budget deal,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He said he planned to offer an amendment to remove the defense spending caps. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he thinks Congress will be able to use an emergency supplemental to spend more on defense. Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), intents to offer an amendment to redirect funding to support the Pentagon’s unfunded priorities lists, which are wish lists of items that did not receive funding in the president’s request. These lists serve as a reference point for lawmakers during the annual budget markup process.

Lawmakers are expected to begin marking up their defense budget proposals this month. As that process begins, it’s important to observe any differences between legislation coming out of the armed services committees and that of the appropriations committees. The latter are ultimately responsible for dictating the Pentagon’s spending levels, regardless of how much funding is recommended by the armed services committees. And while there appears to be support for trying to circumvent recent spending caps, the scope of any potential increases remains to be seen.

About Shaun McDougall

As editor of International Military Markets, North America, Shaun has cultivated a deep understanding of the vast defense markets in the United States and Canada. Shaun's perspective on defense procurement and budget issues has been cited in a variety of defense periodicals, including Defense News and National Defense Magazine. Further, Shaun played an integral role in the development of Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast product, which offers an unprecedented level of insight into the Pentagon's acquisition budget. In addition to providing original analytical content for the U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, Shaun oversees an internal defense budget forecasting process involving Forecast International's team of skilled systems analysts following release of the DoD's annual budget request. Shaun is also in charge of managing Forecast International's Weapons Inventory database.

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