The House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel (HAC-D) has recommended more than halving the $4 billion in general reprogramming authority and $2 billion in overseas contingency operations special authority granted to DoD by Congress in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
HAC-D advises a maximum reprogramming amount of $1.9 billion, as opposed to the White House’s request for $9.5 billion in reprogramming authority in fiscal 2021, according to the HAC-D version of the fiscal 2021 Defense Appropriations Bill released on July 7.
The HAC-D legislation “responds to the Department of Defense’s abuse of congressionally granted reprogramming privileges by reducing transfer authority from the $9.5 billion requested to $1.9 billion and placing additional oversight mechanisms on the department’s ability to reprogram funds,” said the HAC-D panel, chaired by Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.).
The HAC-D bill also “prohibits the use of defense funds for the president’s border wall at our troops’ expense,” according to the panel, and “requires that any unobligated funds that were taken for the border wall in fiscal year 2020 be returned to their original accounts and used for the original purposes for which they were appropriated by Congress.”
In fiscal 2020, the White House transferred $3.8 billion in procurement funding for U.S.-Mexico border wall construction–nearly 2/3 of the DoD allotted reprogramming authority despite the opposition of a number of top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Reprogramming is aimed at giving DoD flexibility to respond to unanticipated national security and budgetary conditions, such as increasing weapon system costs and replenishment needs for weapons stores.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), between fiscal 1999 and fiscal 2019, the Pentagon published 2,233 implemented reprogramming actions, averaging more than a 100 a year, excluding below threshold reprogramming actions, those below a minimum dollar or percentage amount, currently $10 million or 20 percent of an appropriated amount.
Special authority reprogrammings over the year have included funds to aid Israel’s procurement of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems‘ and Israel Aerospace Industries‘ Iron Dome missile defense system and funds to improve near-term intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, CRS said.