Now that the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been sent to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature, one might be inclined to ask, “Where's the money to pay for the $717 billion legislation touted to rebuild and modernize our military force?”
Great question. Like most major advocacy efforts these days on Capitol Hill, victory often is clouded by some obstacle, usually having to do with congressional wrangling over how to prioritize federal spending.
The sweeping defense bill made its way through the halls of Congress in record time. In remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, said the last time the annual defense bill made it to the president's desk this early was in 1996.
Our greatest responsibility-what we are supposed to be doing here-is defending America. I'm pleased that the #FY19NDAA passed in record time, the earliest since 1996. I look forward to @realDonaldTrump signing this into law soon. pic.twitter.com/J78MpGEZPE- Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) August 1, 2018
More often than not, though, the bill ends up being a source of contention as it bumps up against other national priorities.
MOAA is grateful for Congress's swift and speedy resolve this year to complete the bill ahead of the August recess.
While the FY 2019 NDAA is poised to change the course of military readiness and the all-volunteer force for years to come, DoD can't pay for the things Congress authorized without first getting appropriate funding.
The legislation to fund the bill is stalled, along with a number of other appropriations bills for now, and not likely to see any movement in the short-term as lawmakers left town to return to their home districts.
The House is expected to be out the full month, and the Senate is taking a mini-recess, returning in mid-August to play catch-up on unfinished business.
However, lawmakers left town surrounded by a flurry of mixed messages as to what to expect upon their return, leading to questions about what they actually might be able to accomplish before the midterm elections.
Once Congress returns in September, the pressure will intensify as lawmakers have only about nine working days to act on passing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Meanwhile, mixed messages on a government shutdown continue to cause consternation with congressional leadership.
Trump has indicated he's considering a government shutdown either before or after the election. The president is keen on pressing hard to get funding for a border wall and immigration reform before the end of the year.
In spite of the president's talk of a government shutdown, some headlines, like GOP leaders yawn at Trump's shutdown threats , dismiss the possibility of a shutdown and signal lawmakers' intent to pass a series of spending bills before the midterm elections to prevent a lapse in funding for most of the federal government.
So there is a lot of “wait and see” as to what happens next with the defense appropriations bill.
MOAA will continue to provide updates on the defense spending bill.