Defense

House passes defense spending bill with fourth-estate cuts

The House passed the $717 billion defense spending bill for fiscal year 2019, along with controversial provisions that would cut the size and cost of the Defense Department’s supporting agencies.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who championed a proposal to eliminate redundancy and reinvest funds to support warfighters, characterized the bill as taking "next steps to rebuilding our military and reforming the Pentagon, the next steps towards strengthening our country's national security" ahead of passage May 24.

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act on a bipartisan 351-66 vote.

The vote comes days after the White House issued its stance on the bill, objecting to proposed elimination of certain agencies, including the Washington Headquarters Service and the Defense Information Systems Agency, and 25 percent cuts across the board.

The House-passed NDAA retains a provision to eliminate the Washington Headquarters Service -- the one agency left from Thornberry’s original proposal to be axed, which performs administrative services, such as parking and facility management.

But the White House bucked, saying it "urges Congress to include the Washington Headquarters Services in the review of all the Defense Agencies and DOD Field Activities … instead of eliminating it."

DISA was initially proposed for elimination but was spared and is set to be reviewed with other fourth-estate back office agencies by the DOD's chief management officer. However, the White House still piped up to defend the agency's existence, saying that transferring its functions to other agencies would increase IT acquisition costs and compromise cybersecurity.

"The Administration objects to directing the Department to transfer all information technology contracting, acquisition, and senior leader communication services of the Defense Information Systems Agency to other DOD elements," the White House wrote. "This action would increase the cost of acquiring information technology, weaken the Department’s ability to secure its cyber networks, and inhibit DISA’s mission to provide seamless communication to warfighters and senior leaders."

The House bill's Senate counterpart passed committee on May 23, but it has yet to be voted on by the full chamber. The two bills will be reconciled in a conference committee ahead of a final vote later this year.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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