Defense Budget Moving Through Senate

Last Updated Sep 10, 2009 6:01 AM EDT

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee finished their mark-up of the 2010 defense bill getting it ready for the full Appropriations Committee (SAC) and finally the Senate to vote on it. In their mark up the Subcommittee met most of Obama's and Gates' goals for the budget. The F-22 was not included but that was not unexpected as the previous deliberations had agreed on that.

The mark up also eliminated the second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) which Obama had also asked be eliminated but did have some support among Senators. The death of Senator Kennedy (D-MA) removed one of its biggest supporters as General Electric would have made parts of it at their Lynn, MA plant. Both GE and Rolls-Royce who were jointly working on the program have made big efforts to keep the program going and have seen support in the House so that might be one issue to work out in Conference.

The Senate subcommittee also just paid for the end of the VH-71 production line rather then including funds to keep the First Increment aircraft integration going. The House has also supported that idea arguing to do something with the helicopters already purchased by the Navy so as not to waste the several hundred million dollars of RDT&E funding already spent. The program was recommended for termination by Obama due to its cost and schedule problems for the Second Increment due to the tough requirements levied on the platform.

The SAC will most likely follow the layout of the subcommittee with perhaps a few minor tweaks here and there. The full Senate may add some programs and take some away but will also follow the general direction of this mark up. If there are severe differences with the House version of this bill then they will have to be resolved in Conference. The fact that Obama is being supported by the Senate means that the final bill as voted out by both legislative houses will match pretty much what he originally proposed.

Without knowing the full details of the 2011 and out budget it is hard to predict what kind of fights between the Executive and Legislative branches will occur in the near future. There might be more conflict if there are further attempts to reduce defense spending severely over the next few years. The 2010 mid-term elections may also lead to more conflict if more Republicans are returned to Congress. Picking fights over defense spending has been a habit between the two parties for years with the Republicans tending to ask for more then a Democratic president has wanted.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website, DefenseProcurementNews.com.