Quick Hit – December 5, 2016

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

On Friday the House passed the $619B NDAA by a vote of 375-34.  The bill will move to the Senate this week, where it is expected to receive similarly strong support and easy passage.  The bill reflects a compromise of the House and Senate versions passed out of committee earlier this year. The compromise provides for $9B in overseas contingency funding (OCO) versus the $18B in the original House version of the bill.  The $9B in OCO directs $3.2B for readiness shortfalls in the base budget, and $5.8B for troops in Afghanistan and operations in Syria. See the text of the NDAA here.

See the HASC summary of the bill here.

Appropriations

Despite the relatively good news of agreement and compromise on the NDAA, appropriations will take months longer than previously anticipated. This week Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell agreed to the incoming administration’s request to extend the continuing resolution (CR) into March, and possibly April.  The time is expected to give the Trump team an opportunity to put its stamp on any funding agreement, while also allowing the Senate time to process the myriad confirmation hearings required in order to seat a new cabinet.

Fourth Annual Reagan National Defense Forum 

The Reagan National Defense Forum was held over the weekend at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.
  • Generally very positive impressions of the defense spending outlook in the Trump administration with some caveats:
    • As a practical matter, increases in defense spending and relief or repeal of sequestration, non-defense elements of government will have to receive some relief as well, although not necessarily equal relief
    • Despite Republican control of the House and Senate, Democrats in the Senate can impose the 60 vote threshold and prevent passage of funding legislation – Republicans won’t be able to just force everything through
  • The nomination of General Mattis is universally appealing to the defense industry and Congressional defense leadership.
    • Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has indicated she will not support the required legislative waiver for General Mattis to serve in this civilian role less than 7 years since his departure from active duty. The waiver legislation, supported by Chairman McCain and many others, may be a test case to see how difficult Senate Democrats will make the confirmation process for the Trump administration.  Senator Gillibrand’s resistance can force a 60 vote requirement in the Senate, or we could see her use the leverage to force the Senate to revisit her previously failed legislation requiring changes to the pentagon’s handling of sexual assault cases. Look for the latter at this point.
  • A supplemental funding request of between $6B and $9B is imminent. It is generally viewed as a welcome relief valve softening the impact of the CR.  This supplemental will likely be passed soon after the new Congress forms in January.

See the recently published calendars of the new 115th Congress below.

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