In Defense of a Budget

Our region gets good support and communications from our Congressional delegation and their local staffs, but it’s still interesting to get the perspective from someone else’s congressman.

I had that opportunity at last week’s Summer Conference of the ADC when George Schlossberg, Partner/Attorney with Kutak Rock LLP (WA, DC) and Rochelle Dornatt, Chief of Staff, Rep. Sam Farr (CA, 17th District) gave their appraisals of the status of the Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills for the budget. What follows is my hopefully accurate synopsis.

Firstly, it is observed that BRAC is no longer an issue in Congress. They (as a group) are no longer paying attention to the details. It is up to affected losing and growth communities to engender Congressional attention to their issues.

Also, the $500 billion Defense appropriations and the $200 billion supplemental budget are not enough. There is an estimated $400 billion deficit. And, it is beginning to be acknowledged there is not enough money to provide bases, housing, training facilities to bring the troops home from Europe, Asia or other deployments.

Please note the Defense budget is actually divided into two bills: authorization and appropriations. And appropriations is further divided into milcon (military construction) and everything else. The House has passed the authorization for $515 billion, which eliminated the BRAC Commission. If this provision is retained, future base closures and realignments will have to have another vehicle.

The current authorization contains $9.1 billion to implement BRAC ’05. There is not money for growth impacts. The supplemental contains $863 million for “get well” provisions.

The Senate is stuck without passing authorization, and will have an estimated 50/50 chance of passing it during the 18 days available when they return to session.

The impasse is all about energy and drilling (and inserting amendments into the Defense bills) and political campaigns. Congress may rely on a continuation of supplemental appropriations until March ’09, when a next administration will have the reins.

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