House Passes Defense Appropriations Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $985 billion federal appropriations package containing four separate spending bills, including a defense bill that would fund national security efforts at $17 billion below the White House’s requested amount.  The “minibus” was passed by a vote of 225-203, with seven Democrats and all Republicans voting against the bill.

The House’s defense legislation supports a $733 billion topline for national security, matching the level the administration was originally projecting for FY20 before the White House bolstered its request to $750 billion.  A separate defense authorization bill from the House Armed Services Committee also supports a $733 national security topline.

The topline national security figure includes the Department of Defense, nuclear defense programs in the Department of Energy, and other defense-related activities outside of the DoD.  The Pentagon’s portion of the budget amounts to $713.2 billion, comprising $645.1 billion in base funding and $68.1 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.

The legislation will face resistance from the White House and Senate, both of which favor a $750 billion national security budget.  Furthermore, the Budget Control Act currently limits FY20 national security spending to $576 billion, meaning the defense spending bill cannot be enacted in its current form regardless of the level of support from across the aisle.  The White House attempted to bypass this cap by funneling nearly $100 billion into the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is not subject to spending limits.  The House bill moved that loophole funding back into the base budget.

Lawmakers need to reach a broader agreement on BCA spending caps in order to enact a defense budget of this magnitude.  The FY20 fiscal year begins on October 1, leaving a few short months for negotiations to take place if Congress wishes to pass a budget on time.  Notably, lawmakers have passed only one on-time defense budget in the past ten years (the FY19 appropriations bill), so it is possible negotiations could stretch well beyond the start of the 2020 fiscal year.

About Shaun McDougall

Shaun McDougall is an analyst at Forecast International covering the U.S. and Canadian defense markets.

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