The military spending bill Congress passes for the current fiscal year will be legislation “people can live with,” according to a senior minority member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee.
Under a budget deal reached last month that gave the Pentagon $22.3 billion in relief from the automatic spending cuts called sequestration, defense spending still must be cut about $25 billion from previously planned levels, to about $498 billion, not including wartime operations.
That will require cuts in operations and maintenance, research and development, contractor personnel and weapons accounts, Representative James Moran of Virginia, the second-ranking Democrat on the defense panel, said today in an interview.
“People are going to grouse about it, but it will be a bill people can live with it because even though it’s $25 billion, it’s still a fairly small percent of the bill itself,” Moran said.
The defense legislation is being rolled into an omnibus spending bill being drafted by the staffs of the Senate and House appropriations committees. Moran said the House may vote on the resulting measure as soon as next Friday, Jan. 10. President Barack Obama must sign the bill by Jan. 15 to prevent another government shutdown and the return of the full sequestration cuts.
The version of the spending measure the House acts on will reflect an agreement with the Senate appropriations committee, Moran said. “We aren’t going to mess around with” a House-Senate conference committee, he said. “These appropriations bills have been debated to death.”
Moran said details of the defense cuts won’t be made public until the legislation is filed with the House Rules Committee, which controls the flow of bills for votes.
“If we’re smart,” he said, the bill won’t be filed “until pretty much the 11th hour.” “We don’t want this on the street, so to speak, to be picked apart. This needs to pass, and I think we will wait to the last minute.”
The House could vote as late as Tuesday, Jan. 14, with the Senate to follow, he said.
Asked where the cuts might come, Moran, whose Northern Virginia district includes many defense industry workers, said, “I’m afraid that the contractor workforce is going to suffer, particularly the mid-sized contractors.”
Members will receive options for decisions such as those on major weapons programs next week, he said.
“My own view is I believe modernization can be trimmed, because while we would like to do it there’s a real question” of whether this is the best use “of scarce resources,” he said.