Washington Weekly – February 28, 2014

February 28, 2014

The House passed several bills under suspension this week including the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA); a bill to legalize cell phone unlocking; a private property rights act; a bill barring the IRS from asking questions regarding religious, political or social beliefs; a bill making changes to the federal rule-making process; a bill authorizing the Chairperson of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to set aside regulations issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act. The Senate set aside a proposal to increase to the federal minimum wage, and failed on a procedural motion on a bill to extend and expand health care, education, and job-assistance programs and benefits for veterans.

FY2015 Budget

The Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to decide next week whether her committee will mark up a FY15 budget resolution. Murray believes that another resolution is unnecessary as the Balanced Budget Act  (PL 113-67) passed by Congress in December already sets the spending caps for FY15. She is also concerned that pursuing another budget resolution could cause confusion for appropriators and may renew partisan battles. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Budget Committee still intends to write a FY15 budget resolution

Two of the biggest budget questions for FY15 have already been settled – top-line discretionary spending is locked in at $1.014 trillion and defense funding is capped at $521.4 billion. The only question that remains is how members will divide the $492.5 billion domestic discretionary budget.

The President will unveil his FY15 budget request next Tuesday, which is expected to stick to the $1.014 trillion cap. Historical tables and analytical perspectives will be released the following week. The President will also propose a $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” aimed at funding research, manufacturing, defense, education, and other priorities. The administration will also offer a plan to pay for this initiative by closing tax loopholes and changing spending programs.

FY15 Defense Budget Briefing

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed the FY15 $496 billion Defense Department budget request on Monday and briefed the House and Senate “Big Eight” (Armed Services committees and Defense Appropriations subcommittees Chairs and Ranking Members) before the press conference. While the Pentagon request adheres to the cap for FY15, the department’s five-year budget plan exceeds spending limits in place for FY16-19 by a total of $115 billion. The FY15 request also includes an additional request of $26 billion for the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. The budget calls for further reductions in troop strength and force structure in all services, active and reserve; terminates or delays some modernization programs; protects higher priorities in procurement, research and development; and slows the growth of military compensation costs.

Some specific FY15 budget recommendations are as follows:

  • BRAC in 2017
    • European Infrastructure Consolidation Review this spring to recommend further cuts
  • Force Structure and Modernization Decisions
    • Preserves all three legs of nuclear triad
    • Special Ops forces grow from 66k today to 69.7k
  • Air Force
    • Protects funding for the new bomber, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the new refueling tanker.
    • $1 billion for next-generation jet engine technology
    • Reduce the number of tactical air squadrons including the entire A-10 fleet replacing them with the F-35 in the early 2020s.
    • Retire the U-2 in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system.
    • Reduce around-the-clock combat air patrols of Predator and Reaper aircraft from 65 to 55.
  • Navy/Marine Corps
    • Maintain 11 carrier strike groups
    • Continue buying two destroyers and two attack submarines per year, as well as one additional Afloat Staging Base.
    • For the LCS, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward.
    • Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. Navy will consider a new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS.
    • Marines number around 190,000 today, and they will draw down to 182,000.
  • Army
    • Today 520,000 active-duty soldiers, planned originally to reduce to 490,000, but will further reduce to 440k-450k.
    • Army National Guard and Reserves draw down from 355,000 and 205,000 to 335,000 (Guard) and 195,000 (Reserves).
    • Terminate the Ground Combat Vehicle program. Redirect funds to next-generation platform.
    • Transfer Apache attack helicopters from Guard to active duty, and transfer Blackhawk helicopters to the Guard. Active duty to retire Kiowas and “JetRanger” training helicopters.
  • Military Compensation
    • 1% raise in basic pay for military personnel – except general and flag officers whose pay is frozen for one year.
    • Tax free housing allowances reduced from 100% to 95% with 5% out of pocket contribution.
    • No reimbursement for renters insurance.
    • Reduce direct subsidies to military commissaries by $1B but not shutting them down. Overseas commissaries will continue to receive subsidies.
    • TRICARE health insurance programs – consolidate plans, and adjust deductibles and co-pays. Retirees and some active duty to pay more for deductibles and co-pays.
    • Awaiting results of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s report before pursuing other reforms in this area.

FY15 Appropriations

All of the House Appropriations subcommittees have set their deadlines and issued their instructions to members of Congress for submitting programmatic and language submissions for the FY15 appropriations process. The deadlines for each subcommittee are as follows:

House Appropriations Subcommittee Deadline
Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Mar. 31
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Mar. 31
Defense Apr. 2
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Apr. 2
Financial Services and General Government Apr. 2
Homeland Security Mar. 31
Interior Apr. 4
Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies Apr. 4
Legislative Branch Mar. 17
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Mar. 17
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Apr. 4
Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies Apr. 2

House Defense Authorization Timeframe

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is working towards passing the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by early June this year. Members who wish to submit programmatic or language requests must do so by COB March 10th. Despite the President’s budget request being a month behind schedule, the committee hopes to have subcommittee markups the last week of April, full committee markup the following week, and floor action the week of May 19th. HASC Chairman Buck McKeon’s (R-CA) goal is to have the bill conferenced and done before the House and Senate adjourn in October for the mid-term elections.

Tax Reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released a discussion draft of his tax reform framework this week. Camp is term-limited as chairman and may be looking to put his stamp on a tax overhaul effort that is likely to not progress until the next Congress. Camp’s plan would reshape policy from poverty aid to accounting mechanisms for multinational corporations, and cut tax rates for individuals and corporations while scaling back tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction. The Joint Committee on Taxation scored the plan and said it would bring in an additional $700 billion in revenue over 10 years. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made no promises when asked about taking action on Camp’s tax-reform plan as Republican leaders have little interest in debating tax reform before the fall elections. Details on Camp’s plan can be found at: http://tax.house.gov.

Cybersecurity

NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) proposed two new building blocks this week and is inviting the public to comment on the draft documents. Building blocks are cybersecurity solutions that the NCCoE develops in collaboration with small groups of vendors and are meant to be applicable across multiple industry sectors. The comment period on these two new building blocks is open until March 28, 2014.

The first new building block is the Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC) Building Block, which proposes an identity management system that allows multiple enterprises to exchange and validate employee attributes such as title, division, certifications, and training. This allows an organization to grant a non-employee access to a range of corporate resources using risk-based policy enforcement. (http://csrc.nist.gov/nccoe/Building-Blocks/abac.html)

The second is the Mobile Device Security for Enterprises Building Block, which proposes a system of commercially available technologies that provide enterprise-class protection for mobile platforms that access corporate resources. This building block will examine an array of security technologies that can enable enterprise risk management for users to work inside and outside the corporate network with a securely configured mobile device. (http://csrc.nist.gov/nccoe/Building-Blocks/mds.html)

Two other building blocks announced previously by NIST include the Trusted Geolocation in the Cloud (http://csrc.nist.gov/nccoe/Building-Blocks/Trusted-Geolocation-in-the-Cloud.html) and the Continuous Monitoring: Software Asset Management (http://csrc.nist.gov/nccoe/Building-Blocks/conmon.html).

Political Updates

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the longest serving member of Congress in history, announced that he would not seek reelection this year. Dingell, 88, has served in the House of Representatives since 1955 and is on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell’s wife, Democratic National Committee member and former General Motors executive Debbie Dingell, announced today that she would run for his seat. The seat is safely Democratic.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-ZA) also announced he will retire at the end of his term after 23 years in Congress. Pastor is on the Appropriations (Ranking Democrat, Transportation HUD subcommittee) and Intelligence Committees.

Next Week

The House will take up a flood insurance bill, legislation that would eliminate the individual mandate penalty under ObamaCare for the rest of 2014, a bill aimed at streamlining National Environmental Policy Act compliance, and a bill that would apply to all states a Bush Administration rule regarding coal mining and buffer zones around streams. They may also take up a bill blocking EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations for future power plants. The Senate will take up a number of nominations and begin consideration of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.

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