The chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s on Monday detailed his panel’s proposal for the next defense authorization bill, which arrives with a topline $17 billion below the president’s request, noting the mark received mostly bipartisan agreement outside of a decision to stop funding for a low-yield nuclear warhead.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), HASC chairman, told reporters his committee’s $733 billion mark-up for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act meets senior Pentagon leaders anticipated funding level while noting the proposal faces likely challenges without a budget to deal to lift spending caps.
The president’s FY ’20 budget request called for a $750 billion budget with a large portion included in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) designation, which Smith called a way to work around raising spending while under the Budget Control Act.
“It’s been difficult. The president’s budget didn’t help because it took a rather unrealistic approach to cutting non-defense discretionary spending, even below what we asked for, and doing a massive increase in OCO to cover an increase in defense spending. That’s a non-starter,” Smith told the Defense Writers Group on Monday.
Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event later in the day, Smith described the administration’s budget request as “abusing the hell out of OCO” and noting a reluctance from the president to sign a new budget deal.
“We’re not going to have anything remotely resembling the president’s budget in the final analysis,” Smith told attendees at the CSIS event. “The most important issue this year is somewhat out of our control, and that is getting a caps deal.”
Smith told reporters his mark-up was a largely bipartisan effort with committee members in agreement on plans to fully fund services’ programmatic requests, while citing cut funds for the low-yield nuclear weapon and Guantanamo Bay as two areas of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans
“The amount of stuff that we disagree on is probably about two percent of the bill. That’s it. Let’s not forget about the 98 percent that is so critical to supporting the members of the military,” Smith said. “On the nuclear stuff, we’ve always had disagreements on that piece.”
HASC’s mark-up cuts funding for the deployment of the W76-2 low-yield ballistic missile warhead.
The strategic forces subcommittee detailed plans to prohibit funds for the low-yield nuke last week, which was in line with Smith’s long-held opposition to the weapon’s development since it was first proposed in DoD’s 2018 Nuclear Policy Review (Defense Daily, June 3).
Minority leaders in the committee, including Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), released a statement condoning the move following details being released.
“One area where we have disagreement is we don’t think we should build a low-yield submarine-based nuclear weapon,” Smith said during CSIS remarks. “Understand, we have low-yield nuclear weapons. We just think it’s a destabilizing move to put these things on submarines.”
Smith noted his committee’s proposal fully funds other nuclear-related programs including the B-21, Columbia-class submarine and LRSO.
The full committee is set to conduct a mark-up of its proposal this Wednesday.