November 22, 2016
Congressional leaders have decided to kick the can to next year on most major funding issues.
Instead of passing a year-end omnibus appropriations bill to fully fund government operations for FY17, the new plan is to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to carry the funding only through sometime in March.
That would give the new Administration and Congress a stronger hand in funding negotiations.
But it poses three problems.
First, an extended CR means funding is limited to the FY16 levels and programs. No new contracts could be let, for example, which is a nightmare for those involved in procurement, among others.
Second, it means the new Congress will have to do double duty. That is, they will have to finalize funding for the current year (FY17) at the same time their first priority is supposed to be building the normal appropriations bills for FY18. Tough duty for appropriations committees and leadership.
Third, and potentially the most significant for members of the military community, it raises at least some risk the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill process may be curtailed in some way.
House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders have been working for months to resolve the differences between their respective versions of the defense bill, and are nearly ready to complete action on what has been considered a “must-pass” bill.
But what if members of the lame duck congress just want to pass a 4-month continuing resolution and get out of town?
Will there be enough time for both the House and Senate to bring a final defense bill up for a vote?
Could the defense bill (or maybe just selected parts of it) get wrapped into the continuing resolution?
What would that mean for the military pay raise, TRICARE reform, TRICARE fees, force levels, and survivor benefits?
At present, House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders are planning on expeditiously finishing the defense bill and bringing it to the floor in early December.
We'll be thankful if they can get that important job done.
You can help by sending your legislators a MOAA-suggested message, urging them to make sure Congress passes a final FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill before the lame duck session adjourns.
We will be thankful for your help on this, and we wish you a happy and festive Thanksgiving with friends and family.