SAC Sets DoD Budget Above House, Sequestration Levels

(DEFENSE DAILY 21 JUN 13) … Emelie Rutherford

Senate budget-setters agreed Thursday to seek a $516.6 billion defense budget that is larger than both House Republicans and President Barack Obama proposed, and also ignores “sequestration” budget cuts.

The Democrat-led Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its so-called 302(b) budget allocations for all fiscal year 2014 federal spending bills by a partisan 15-14 vote. It opted to set the base Pentagon budget at $516.6 billion, or roughly $700 million above the administration’s $515.9 billion request.

The House Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, approved last week a $512.5 billion defense budget that is $3.4 billion below the Pentagon’s proposal. Thus, if and when House and Senate appropriators reconcile the appropriations bills their chambers eventually pass, they could be faced with a $4 billion difference in the topline defense figure.

The SAC and its Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) have not yet crafted the contents of the actual FY ’14 defense appropriations bill. The differing proposals for the size of the Pentagon budget – from the White House and the House and Senate appropriations committees – ignore the so-called sequestration cuts of $500 billion to decade-long defense spending, which started in March.

Obama, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats all have offered contrasting plans for thwarting the defense sequestration cuts, though the two parties do not agree on the alternate path to take.

“I am not willing to accept that sequester is the new normal,” SAC Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said during Thursday’s markup session.

Her committee approved on Thursday an overall topline of $1.058 trillion for the 12 FY ‘14 bills funding the federal government. That jibes with the non-binding budget resolution the Senate passed on March 23 and is more than $1 billion below Obama’s proposed federal budget.

“For those who say $1.058 trillion is excessive, that we should spend less, I think that cuts do have consequences,” Mikulski said, pointing to recent discretionary spending cuts.

SAC-D Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) argued against a Republican attempt Thursday to set the federal budget below $1.058 trillion. “This year I have not received a single letter from either party asking for any…funding in the Department of Defense, as requested by the president, to be cut, not one,” Durbin said. “I don’t think any other subcommittee chairs have either. Instead, I have received (requests) from both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, asking for programmatic increases over President Obama’s budget.”

He added: “We’ve received 86 different requests from Republican senators to support the president’s budget spending level in defense, or to support increased spending above the president’s in the defense bill. We’ve received no Republican requests to decrease funding, none.”

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