No Need for Compromise on Pentagon Spending

Weekly WastebasketNo Need for Compromise on Pentagon Spending“I’m just a Bill. Yes, I’m only a Bill, and I’m sittin’ here on Capitol Hill.”

National Security,  | Quick Take
Oct 4, 2018  | 6 min read | Print Article

The Fiscal Year 2019 Pentagon spending bill was recently signed into law by the president as part of a larger appropriations spending package. The bill included more than $674.4 billion for the Pentagon. When combined with funds for military construction ($10.3 billion) and nuclear weapons programs ($11.1 billion), which are provided for in different appropriations bills, spending on Pentagon-related matters is just a few billion shy of $700 billion. And that’s a lot of money, even in these days of profligate, deficit-be-damned, spending.This cornucopia of cash was made possible by the fiscally reckless Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that lifted budget caps without offsets. But the extra greenbacks led to some very strange decision-making when the House and Senate met to hammer out the differences between their two versions of the Pentagon-specific spending bill.

Aficionados of “Schoolhouse Rock” will remember the despondent “Bill” sitting on the steps of the Capitol and teaching kids how the House and Senate compromise between two different versions of legislation. Evidently, no one on the conference committee ever watched that lesson because they had a funny way of hammering out the differences between their respective bills. Meaning that when we perused the procurement portion of the bill, instead of meeting in the middle on most of the increases, lawmakers picked the greater amount.

In this analysis of Congressional additions made to procurement programs, we included any program where Congress pumped in more cash than requested by President Trump (including completely unrequested programs). Not surprisingly, the House and Senate came up with very different lists of programs. For instance, all but two of the eight suggested increases to shipbuilding programs were made by the Senate. And of the other two, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) received suggested increases in both.

Follow The Money

Of the 68 procurement programs that received increases in the final Pentagon spending bill, 57 were funded in either the House or Senate bill but received zero increase in the other chamber. Put another way, only 11 of the program lines were deemed worthy to receive increases by both the House and Senate. In fact, there were fewer programs to receive the imprimatur of both the House and Senate because four of those procurement lines relate to a single weapon system: the F-35. And as a reminder, the F-35 is produced by Lockheed Martin in Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger’s (R-TX) district. Just a coincidence, we’re sure!

Of the 57 programs that received funding in only one version of the bill, how many do you suppose went unfunded in the final bill? Anyone? Bueller? Just eight. And of the 49 programs that received a zero in one chamber and some level of funding in the other, in all but four cases (OHIO Submarine replacement, LPD 17, O/A-X Light Attack Aircraft, and C-130H modernization) the “compromise” between zero and some level of funding was to give the entire amount that one chamber included. For instance, the House added $740 million for eight additional F-35s for the Air Force. The Senate bill added zero. The “compromise” was $740 million. That’s an interesting approach to a “negotiation” and one we’re sure Lockheed Martin heartily approves.

Zero To Hero: More Numbers

A few other numbers for you to think about: the House version of the bill added $5.6 billion to procurement programs. The Senate added more than $6.2 billion. The “compromise?” $7.5 billion.

And a program labeled “Information Systems Security: Sharkseer” received $5 million in the House and zero in the Senate. The “compromise” number in the final version of the bill was $10 million.

Somebody needs to ‘splain to the Congressional Appropriations Committees what compromise actually means.

Earlier in the year, as the House and Senate produced their different versions of the Pentagon spending bill, we produced these “Zero to Hero” charts that listed every program that had a budget request of zero, but the Congress chose to fund in either the House and Senate versions of the Pentagon spending bill.

Also we previously analyzed how much of the overall increases (to both unrequested and requested programs) made by the House were to benefit the Lockheed Martin Corporation versus the additions in the Senate. Remember what we said earlier about Rep. Kay Granger.

So imagine the staff here at TCS sitting with poor old “Bill” on the steps of the Capitol, shaking our heads at how the rush to throw money at the Pentagon has killed the fine art of compromise.