House trims, then passes, DOD spending bill

The fiscal 2013 defense spending bill, which passed the House July 19, won’t allow Pentagon officials to spend at will. Instead, it includes more oversight on the Defense Department.

“In this environment of fiscal austerity, we must also recognize that even the Pentagon should not have carte blanche when it comes to discretionary spending,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in a statement.

He said the bill increases oversight and takes a balanced approach to budgeting, without affecting the department’s missions.

The House passed the $606 billion defense spending bill -- the Defense Department Appropriations Act (H.R. 5856) -- by a vote of 326 to 90. However, the House also reduced the actual amount of funding by $1.1 billion through an amendment.

The Senate will now consider the legislation.

In total, the legislation provides $518.1 billion in non-war defense funding, and $87.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations for defense activities related to the Global War on Terror.

It includes funding for critical national security needs and provides resources to continue military efforts abroad. In addition, the bill provides essential funding for health and quality of life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

The amendment that requires a $1.1 billion across-the-board cut to the legislation was adopted 247 to 167.

Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), an unlikely team, introduced the spending cut together, after each of them had offered similar amendments individually to past bills. The two joined together because Mulvaney’s amendment received more votes from Republicans, and Frank’s amendment received more Democrats, the two representatives said July 19 on MSNBC’s show "Morning Joe."

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, cheered on the vote.

“The vote represents a critical turning point in congressional spending trends and a show of unified support for reform not seen in many years,” even though the amendment’s effects will be modest, she said in a statement.

Yet “if enacted, the defense budget will still be higher than what the Pentagon requested,” she added.

More broadly, some areas of focus in the House bill--though not always in the form of more money--include cyber defense; acquisition workforce issues; technology innovation; and personnel management and troop levels as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

The House approved by voice vote a contracting-related amendment from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). It would prohibit funds from being used to enter into a contract with any person that has been convicted of fraud against the government.

Now the bill rests on the Senate and what it believes should be DOD's priorities for fiscal 2013.

About the Author

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

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