Three Issues To Watch As HASC Mark Ups Begin

An U.S. Air Force ground maintenance crewman checks over a  A-10 Thunderbolt attack plane after it returned from a mission. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

An U.S. Air Force ground maintenance crewman checks over a A-10 Thunderbolt attack plane after it returned from a mission. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

As always, the House Armed Services will consider a long list of issues about policies and weapon programs as it this week begins crafting its annual defense authorization bill. Several issues will be front and center.

HASC’s subcommittees will move their versions of the full panel’s 2013 national defense authorization act (NDAA) on Wednesday and Thursday. The full committee will take up the entire bill next Wednesday. Here are three issues to watch this week:

A-10 Retirement. Will HASC’s Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee go there, or leave that debate to the full committee’s session next week? The Air Force wants to retire the venerable attack plane fleet in 2019 to save money, but some lawmakers have vowed to reverse those plans. Will the TacAir portion of the bill include language blocking the service’s proposal?

Offsets. For 2015, if lawmakers want to put more funding toward one program it must be done at the expense of another defense or federal program. That’s because the December two-year bipartisan budget resolution extended defense and domestic spending caps.

The late Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., once told your correspondent that Congress can always find funds within the Pentagon budget to shift from lesser-priority programs to higher-priority ones. But with members intensely protecting their pet programs and bases in the sequestration era, that may be easier said than done. And getting enough members the other political party to support an offset that takes monies from another part of the federal budget they hold sacrosanct has been nearly impossible in the Obama-tea party era.

Troop Cuts. The Obama administration wants to trim the Army and Marine Corps after over a decade of war, arguing the ground forces were enlarged for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the former over and the latter mostly winding down this year, the administration argues a smaller force makes operational and budget sense.

Wait a second, say hawkish Republicans. They see a world, as HASC Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas put it on Monday, that is as dangerous as ever. To them, that means the U.S. military needs to be large, lethal and well-equipped. Most congressional Democrats side with the White House. Will the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee’s portion of the bill include language reversing, blocking or delaying the cuts? If so, can it find a budgetary offset needed to pay for keeping all those soldiers and Marines?

Here’s our article about the HASC two-week mark up schedule.

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
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