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Defense Authorization Bill Passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2010 Defense Authorization bill. It was for a $550 billion defense budget with another $130 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is one of two bills that must pass each year for the Defense Department to spend money in the next. The second is the Appropriation Bill.

In theory the Authorization sets the top line amount that may be spent on each item while the Appropriation bill dictates exactly how much money is provided. In the past the rule has been that the department can spend money as long as their is an appropriation, the caveat being it cannot exceed the amount in the proposed Authorization Bill.

The 2010 Authorization does include more money to keep the F-22 production line going against the wishes of the Obama Administration. It does though keep the almost twenty percent cut in funding for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) which has the Republican minority quite upset. Considering the threats faced from North Korea and Iran it might have made some sense to keep the money and possibly spend it on different aspects of the MDA portfolio while still cancelling the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the Ground Based Mid-course system.

This is also the first budget that puts the costs of combat operations in South West Asia into the regular budget rather then replying on supplementals. The only issues with that is first if operations continue or are heavier then planned a further supplemental will be needed or a large reprogramming action to get money from other sources in the Defense Department. The second issue is despite the fact that it looks like an increase in total dollar value compared to 2009's budget it is a decrease in the core budget as the funding is skewed by the operations money.

There still remain the Appropriation Bills to come out of the House and Senate as well as whatever the Conference will do. That means the final budget may be slightly different then the just passed Authorization in total dollars and spending priorities. It is pretty clear that the Democrats in the House are not going to restore the missile defense funds and the F-22 seems to be continuing despite various opposition to the program. There is a possibility the more bi-partisan Senate will restore some funding and that will make it through Conference.

At this rate the Congress seems to be on path to complete the funding bill by 1 October which is the start of the next fiscal year.