(Updated Nov. 19)
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the texts of all 12 appropriation bills for FY 2021 on Nov. 10, including a defense appropriations package totaling $688 billion.
The bill would provide the necessary funding for DoD for the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. The federal government and its agencies are operating under a continuing resolution at FY 2020 spending levels, which is due to expire Dec. 11.
Members of Congress face a narrowing timeline to pass a budget before the December deadline; if they can’t, they’ll need to pass another continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Initial indications from the congressional leaders appeared positive that both chambers would pass the appropriations bills before the close of the year. However, each passing day Congress fails to act makes it increasingly more difficult for lawmakers to finish their work.
Congressional leaders may opt for another stopgap spending bill, potentially through either February or March of next year. However, recent reports show leaders from both parties lining up behind an appropriations omnibus – one bill covering the entire government – in lieu of a continuing resolution. Signs point to the president approving this approach, though the administration has taken issue with it in the past.
Why is this critical to MOAA members? Limping along under continuing resolutions prevents DoD from enacting meaningful reforms and improvements, including many MOAA-supported measures that could become law as part of the still-in-discussion FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
MOAA-Supported Provisions in Both House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills
So far there are two MOAA-supported provisions that appear in both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2021 defense appropriations bill.
Military Health System (MHS) Reform. MOAA has been actively advocating for a halt to proposed cuts to military medical capacity until the Defense Health Agency conducts a comprehensive reassessment of civilian medical capacity to ensure continued beneficiary access to high quality care. The Senate defense funding bill underscores MOAA’s concerns and would require DoD to submit detailed implementation plans prior to the obligation of funds to close or restructure any military treatment facilities (MTFs).
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s explanatory statement, there is concern about methodology gaps found in DoD’s assessments, which used incomplete and inaccurate information about civilian health care quality, access, and cost-effectiveness. Due to these gaps, DoD leaders may not fully understand the risks associated with the restructuring of the MTFs.
The House Appropriations Committee’s statement also addresses the issue; learn more about the specifics on the House side at this link.
Uniformed Services Pay Raise. Both Senate and House versions of the defense appropriations bill will provide the funds for a 3% pay raise for active duty servicemembers. This pay raise would be effective as of Jan. 1, 2021, and is in line with the benchmark established by the Employment Cost Index (ECI).
Next Steps and How You Can Help
The Senate Appropriations Committee must vote on the 12 appropriations bills before they can advance to the Senate floor. It remains to be seen if the Senate and the House will agree on a single omnibus package to include most, if not all, of the appropriations bills into a single package. The House and Senate will still need to reconcile any differences between the two versions before moving forward. Lawmakers are also up against mounting pressure for another COVID-19 relief package, which adds more uncertainty to whether they will meet the Dec. 11 deadline.
Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agree they are “probably 90% together on” the 2021 appropriations bills. There are significant hurdles that will need to be settled though; for example, the Senate committee’s appropriations bills do not include any emergency pandemic funds, so agreement must be reached on how much relief funding can be expected if a compromise is reached — and whether such funding will be included in the appropriations package or in a separate bill.
Contact your elected officials and ask them to pass a federal budget by Dec. 11 and remind them continuing resolutions stall plans to modernize DoD and improve the lives of servicemembers, military families, retirees, and veterans.