Report: Despite North Korea Threat, Defense Funding Bill Could Get ‘Kicked Down the Road’ Again

Despite North Korea concerns, a national defense spending bill may get “kicked down the road” again as Congress deals with other pressing issues, CNBC reports. After the August recess concludes, there will be quite a lot of unfinished business for the Congressmen to tackle in Washington, including debt ceiling and government funding.

There is a disagreement between both congressional chambers on how the payment for this defense spending bill should be made. Another obstacle is the current statutory budget caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

The House passed a fiscal 2018 defense spending bill last month that includes a defense topline of $696.5 billion, above the Trump administration’s $667 billion plan and also about $70 billion higher than the spending caps mandated by the Congress.

But the Senate has still not voted on a national defense bill, although the Armed Services Committee’s version includes a defense topline number of $700 billion, including $60 billion in war-related overseas contingency operations funding.

“In order for the plan to go through, you’d have to change the law [with the Budget Control Act] or everything would be moot,” Frederico Bartels stated, a policy analyst for defense budgeting at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

In June, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, grumbled during his House testimony about the common practice of “repeated continuing resolutions, which curb long-term investment and often result in increased costs.”

The continuance of the resolution keeps the spending of defense programs at the previous year’s level or lower, and it prevents the Pentagon from launching new programs. The CR also is frustrating for defense contractors because it makes it harder for them to plan ahead and also could delay the awarding of contracts.

Top Pentagon officials also have long made complaints about the mandated caps that are damaging the military. Analysts say, however, there’s probably not enough votes to amend the Budget Control Act limitations. In order to amend these limitations at least 60 votes would be needed in the Senate, which means that 8 Democratic Senators should also vote in favor.

The U.S. already made clear that it will add more interceptors to its current ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system installed in Alaska and California.

A measure in the Senate has more than two dozen co-sponsors and would upgrade the GMD homeland missile defense shield and also order concept work on a space-based sensor layer that can track missile threats. Another plan, from Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, calls for a space-based interceptor system to defeat the nuclear threat from North Korea.

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