House passes defense authorization bill

The House passed the $640 billion fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act May 18.

The vote on the bill, H.R. 4310, was 299 to 120.

“This year’s defense authorization bill helps meet my priorities as chairman: Resolve sequestration; restore strategy and sanity to the defense budget; and rebuild our military after a decade of war,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after it passed.

He said the bill would require defense officials to be fiscally responsible with their resources through stewardship, prioritizing resources and reforming how the Pentagon interacts with the defense industrial base. The committee has worked to ensure competition in contracts, to ease the stresses on small business looking to work with the Armed Services, and to evaluate supply chain weaknesses.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, voted for the bill despite some concerns, including the amount of spending.

“Given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned the bill supports an overall defense budget that is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Act. Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Act number,” he said in a statement.

The Obama administration is warning that the president might veto the defense bill, because of budget amounts and constraints on defense strategies and a need for agency officials to be able to cut resources where they see fit.

“If the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources, the president’s senior advisers would recommend to the president that he veto the bill,” administration officials wrote in a the policy statement May 16.

Officials are concerned with a provision that seeks to clarify military authority to conduct clandestine cyber operations. They also objected to contract bundling provision and “a laudable but overly ambitious” 25 percent goal for small business contracting. The goal currently is to award 23 percent of all prime contracting dollars to small businesses.

Despite the concern, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Small Business Committee, said the bill will improve the contracting workforce by helping small businesses, while making it easier for agencies to crack down on deceptive firms. It would also address the top complaint he hears from small contractors: unjustifiable contract bundling.

“Given that about 70 percent of government contracts are awarded by the Department of Defense, it was beneficial for us to work together on improving small business procurement policies,” he said.

Now, the bill goes to the Senate Armed Services Committee for consideration. The committee has yet to release its version of the bill.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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