Update: The House passed HR 1960 by a 315-107 margin. The ball is now in the Senate's court.
The White House issued a rebuttal to the House Armed Services Committee’s proposed 2014 defense budget (National Defense Authorization Act - H.R. 1960). The White House has voiced its concerns with the House budget proposal. As expected the WH threatened to veto the bill if it passes Congress in its present form.
The WH statement reads:
“…if the bill [HR 1960] is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.”
Although the WH did note some areas of agreement, the June 12th statement seems to indicate that the administration has taken issue with most of the pertinent sections of the HASC version of H.R. 1960.
Since this blog is dedicated to issues surrounding pay, benefits, and related support programs, I will focus on the WH response to the HASC decision to ignore the DoD request to increase TRICARE fees and cap military pay increases at 1%.”
Here is what the administration had to say on those subjects:
TRICARE Fees and Co-Payments: The Administration believes that military retirees deserve an excellent, sustainable health care benefit. For this reason, the Administration strongly supports its requested TRICARE fee initiative that seeks to control the spiraling health care costs of the Department of Defense (DOD) while keeping retired beneficiaries' share of these costs well below the levels experienced when the TRICARE program was implemented in the mid-1990s. The projected FY 2014 TRICARE savings of $902 million and $9.3 billion through FY 2018 are essential for DOD to successfully address rising personnel costs. DOD needs these savings to balance and maintain investments for key defense priorities, especially amidst significant fiscal challenges posed by statutory spending caps. The Administration strongly urges the Congress to support the proposed TRICARE fee initiative.
Military Pay: The Administration strongly urges the Congress to include the Administration's proposal to slow the military pay raise growth to 1 percent in FY 2014. Consistent with the views of the uniformed military leadership, the Budget requests a 1.0 percent increase to basic pay, a 4.2 percent increase in the Basic Allowance for Housing, and a 3.4 percent increase in Basic Allowance for Subsistence. This total compensation level recognizes the sacrifices made by the men and women in our Armed Forces, while adhering to the current budget constraints faced by DOD. The higher pay raise provided by this bill would cost an additional $0.6 billion in FY 2014 and $3.5 billion from FY 2014 to FY 2018. As these costs are not offset, deeper reductions to troop levels as well as readiness and modernization accounts would be needed at a time when statutory spending caps require defense reduction.
So, it is business as usual in Washington. Stay tuned, we’ll keep updating the story as the bill progresses through Congress.
NOTE: The HASC version has yet to pass the full House. The next step after that would be to reconcile the House and Senate versions. To date the Senate has not voted on their version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.