De­fense bud­get sought to add $5B al­ready ap­proved

Weapons, per­son­nel money were in ear­lier agree­ment.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By John Donnelly Tri­bune News Ser­vice

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants Congress to add $30 bil­lion to its fis­cal 2017 De­fense spend­ing bill, but about $5.2 bil­lion of the pro­posed ad­di­tion is al­ready in the bill, ac­cord­ing to a Se­nate com­mit­tee.

CQ Roll Call dis­closed on March 20 that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s $30 bil­lion sup­ple­men­tal re­quest for the Pen­tagon con­tained more than $3 bil­lion in ship and air­craft pro­grams that were al­ready in the House-Se­nate agree­ment that the House passed ear­lier this month and that awaits Se­nate ac­tion.

A Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee aide con­firmed for CQ Roll Call on March 24 that the to­tal amount in mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment pro­grams that the White House wants added to the bill — even though it is al­ready there — is $3.3 bil­lion.

What’s more, the aide said, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought an­other $2 bil­lion or so that Congress is al­ready poised to pro­vide. In­cluded there is an ad­di­tion of $1.6 bil­lion to cover hir­ing of more U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel than Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had sought, plus an­other $285 mil­lion to cover a higher pay raise than he had wanted.

Those two parcels of money were needed in the ap­pro­pri­a­tions mea­sure be­cause the in­creases in peo­ple and pay are man­dated by the fis­cal 2017 de­fense au­tho­riza­tion law, which was en­acted in De­cem­ber.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on De­fense, had noted the $5 bil­lion over­state­ment in the re­quest dur­ing a March 22 hear­ing.

“Congress has al­ready ad­dressed $5 bil­lion of the re­quested funds in the pend­ing de­fense ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill,” Durbin said in his open­ing state­ment.

But apart from CQ’s ear­lier re­port on the du­plica­tive pro­cure­ment re­quest, the full break­down of that $5 bil­lion over­state­ment has not been pre­vi­ously dis­closed.

It is un­usual, to say the least, for an ad­min­is­tra­tion to ask Congress to add funds to a bill when the money is al­ready in the bill. The ad­min­is­tra­tion had two weeks to make note of the re­dun­dan­cies — the pe­riod be­tween the dis­clo­sure of the spend­ing bill’s con­tents and the sub­mis­sion of the sup­ple­men­tal on March 16.

Of­fi­cials with the De­fense Depart­ment comptroller’s of­fice have said they are work­ing with ap­pro­pri­a­tors to “de­con­flict” the re­quest and the bill.

If ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in the Pen­tagon or White House were aware that their sup­ple­men­tal re­quest was ex­ces­sive be­fore or dur­ing its re­lease, they did not let on pub­licly.

In events un­veil­ing the $30 bil­lion re­quest on March 16, of­fi­cials did not dis­close that more than one-sixth of it would not need to be added to the pend­ing bill. In fact, they called at­ten­tion to the need to cover higher troop num­bers, a big­ger pay raise and boosts to cer­tain weapons or­ders — all of which are in the bill.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.