Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Budget and the Sequester
Last week in congressional hearings, defense officials described the negative impact the second round of sequestration will have on the Pentagon. The Defense Department, like all government agencies, is currently operating under a continuing resolution (P.L. 113-46). Unlike other federal agencies, the Pentagon has never operated under a year-long continuing resolution. Many expect the Defense Department will eventually get a separate funding bill.
The House-Senate budget conference will get underway this week. The budget conferees will have six weeks to broker consensus on funding the government beyond January 15, 2014, and avert the second round of automatic cuts to the Pentagon under the sequester (which also kicks in on January 15). Last week, House Armed Services Republicans sent a letter to the budget conferees advocating for $552 billion for national defense programs. This is $54 billion more than the $498.1 billion allowed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Nine out of 29 of the budget conferees are Members of Congress with defense committee assignments: Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Republicans Lindsey Graham (SC), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Jeff Sessions (AL) and Roger Wicker (MS); SASC Democrats Bill Nelson (FL) and Tim Kaine (VA); SASC Independent Angus King (ME); House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee member Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee members Sens. Graham (R-SC) and Patty Murray (D-WA). Sen. Murray co-chairs the budget conference committee with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
National Security Agency
Reports emerged last week that the National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly eavesdropped on the phone calls of at least 35 world leaders. The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed door meeting this week on competing NSA-related bills that might be considered in that panel. Senate Judiciary Committee leaders are expected to unveil their bipartisan measure, which will also address NSA initiatives.
Late next month, an Afghan council is reportedly scheduled to decide whether to approve a status of forces agreement to allow some U.S. forces to stay in the country beyond next year with legal immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, October 29: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “Twenty-five Years of Acquisition Reform: Where do we go from here?”
- Tuesday, October 29: The House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Report from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: Challenges to Securing Afghan Women’s Gains in a Post-2014 Environment.”
- Tuesday, October 29: The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Nuclear Weapons Modernization Programs: Military, Technical, and Political Requirements for the B61 Life Extension Program and Future Stockpile Strategy.”
- Tuesday, October 29: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Authorization Issues.”
- Wednesday, October 30: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “A Culture of Mismanagement and Wasteful Conference Spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
- Wednesday, October 30: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing titled “Facility Protection: Implications of the Navy Yard Shooting on Homeland Security.”
- Thursday, October 31: The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Navy Yard Tragedy: Examining Government Clearances and Background Checks.”