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Congress Just Might Pass the Defense Budget Bill on Time This Year

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) talk to journalists in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. -- Getty Images

Congress is in the position of doing something it hardly ever does -- passing a defense budget bill on time.

The usual dragged-out debate behind closed doors over who gets what for their district or state was cut short this year, possibly because there is so much more money to go around.

The conference committee of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees began closed sessions July 10 to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

Both Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, acting chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the time they expected the closed sessions to be less contentious and time-consuming than in previous years.

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The proposed NDAA calls for a major increase in defense spending for fiscal 2019 to $716 billion, and there already is agreement on a 2.6 percent pay raise for the military. Thornberry said he expects agreement to be reached quickly "so the troops can see the benefits."

On Tuesday, the conference committee wrapped up work and came up with a report on the NDAA for approval by the full House and Senate.

Of course, there is still lots of stuff to argue about. For instance, the White House didn't get what it wanted for the creation of a Space Force as a sixth branch of the military, and there will likely be more back and forth on what to do about allies who buy military equipment from the Russians.

However, Congress is on the verge of passing a military budget by the required Oct. 1 deadline -- the start of the fiscal year -- for the first time in decades, which would avoid the continuing resolutions, sequesters, and threats of government shutdowns of past years.

Todd Harrison, the defense budget specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted Tuesday that the last time Congress passed the NDAA on time was 1996.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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