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Look At The Billions Lawmakers Found Beneath The Pentagon's Couch Cushions
The authors of a new defense spending conference report ran a victory lap last week to tout the billions of dollars they added to the U.S. military budget, but they hardly mentioned the cuts they had to make to pull that off.
Members generally prefer to tout the “winners” in their bills, not so much the “losers.” That habit can obscure the hard work appropriators and their staffs do to wring savings out of the Pentagon and intelligence agency budgets, even when the total funding is an epic $674.4 billion, as it will be in fiscal 2019.
At the same time, the astonishing amounts of money cut from individual defense programs — often enough to run entire agencies elsewhere in the government — highlight the sheer amount of fat in the Pentagon budget.
The explanations for these cuts in the appropriations funding tables are typically as vague as the amounts are large. Often the only reason given for what in some cases are cuts nearing a half billion dollars each — and adding up to multiple billions of dollars — is little more than a few words, such as “historical unobligated balances” or “revised estimate.”
On such barely explained decisions, historic weapons buildups are made.
One of the biggest movements of money in this year’s final Defense bill came as a result of the Pentagon massively overestimating, for the second fiscal year in a row, how much its new retirement system would cost.
After overstating how much money it would need from Congress for the program in fiscal 2018 by more than a half-billion dollars, the Defense Department again overstated its needs for fiscal 2019 — this time by $732 million, the conferees’ joint explanatory statement said. That was good news, though, in that the money freed up as a result was used to help defray $750 million in higher than expected fuel costs, the report showed.
Other budgetary maneuvers involved nearly as much money.
The Defense Health Program, for example, had $597 million taken away in one single line. The reason? “Fiscal 2018 decrease not properly accounted.”
Likewise, the Army’s military personnel account was reduced by a stunning $575 million in one line only explained by “revised estimate.”
The Army personnel account lost $492 million in another line with only this note: “Historical unobligation” — an apparent reflection of appropriators’ view that the Army does not typically spend money quite as fast as it predicts. Each of the services lost sums totaling in the scores of millions of dollars for this same stated reason.
Another big subtraction came in a Navy aircraft program. The service lost $206 million that had been slated to buy C-40A airlift aircraft, which ferry people and supplies to the fleet, because, appropriators wrote, “Requirement funded in fiscal 2018.”
Sorry, wrong bill
The Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, often receives a small portion of its funding in the Defense bill, including in several lines of the fiscal 2019 measure. Appropriators have looked to the Defense bill in recent years to fund a Coast Guard icebreaker ship, for instance.
But when it came to one request for $165 million in Navy operations and maintenance funds to be used for “Coast Guard Support,” the conferees said no.
“Coast Guard funded in Homeland Security bill,” it said in the table.
Even spare parts can get expensive, especially when they are apparently not needed. The conference report took $133 million from the Air Force KC-46 tanker program for parts that were deemed “excess.”
Sometimes contract savings can create cash for appropriators to move elsewhere. That was the case with $200 million subtracted from the Navy unmanned carrier aviation program, apparently because it was so efficient.
Contract delays, too, can produce money, as funds in those cases cannot be spent as rapidly as planned. Hence $30 million taken from the UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program in the Air Force.
It is not just U.S. military services that see their requests cut back, for better or worse. Afghan security forces got nearly $5 billion in this measure. But appropriators took away fully $280 million in one fell swoop in one line that came with only this rationale: “undistributed reduction.”
©2018 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War have repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital
In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.
Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.
And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.
At least 4 American veterans among group arrested in Haiti with arsenal of weapons and tactical gear
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
White supremacist Coast Guard officer stockpiled firearms and hit list of Democrats for mass terror attack
A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested this week planned to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to a court filing requesting he be detained until his trial.
(Reuters Health) - Military service members who are at risk for suicide may be less likely to attempt to harm themselves when they receive supportive text messages, a U.S. study suggests.
The Army allegedly missed this soldier's stomach cancer for 4 years. His widow wants someone to answer for it
The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.