Army-related Legislation in the Works as Congress Wraps Up 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The 113th Congress is within days of wrapping up its 2014 legislative session after passing both the annual defense policy bill and a $1.1 trillion government appropriations bill that includes funding through the end of September for the Defense Department and Army.

               Getting all of this done may require working the weekend, but if things go as planned senators and representatives would go home by early next week. The 114th Congress will convene on January 6.

               There are no big surprises for the Army in the 2015 versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 and Omnibus Appropriations Act but also no relief from the defense spending caps enacted in 2013 or from the threat of sequestration in 2016 if Congress is unable to reach an agreement with the White House on budget priorities.

               Appropriators order steps by the Defense Department to protect the reputations of service members separated as part of the drawdown. They direct the DD Form 214, a service member’s discharge and separation document, be revised. “There is concern that the narrative codes could make a permanent, negative mark on the records of dedicated service members who served honorably,” lawmakers say in the report accompanying the funding bill.

               Overall, the bill provides $490.2 billion for the Defense Department, a $3.3 billion increase over the 2014 budget. It also provides $64 billion for overseas contingency operations.

               As requested, active Army personnel strength is set at 490,000 for fiscal 2015, a drop of 30,000 from 2014.  Army Reserve strength is set at 202,000, a drop of 3,000.  Army National Guard strength for 2015 is 350,200, a 4,000 reduction.  The funding bill includes $41.1 billion to cover Army personnel costs, with only minor changes from the Army’s request.

               The final bill includes $31.9 billion in operations and maintenance funding for the active Army, plus $2.5 billion for the Army Reserve and $6.2 billion for the National Guard.

               There is $3.9 billion included for Army aviation procurement, mostly for rotary aircraft. Lawmakers express concern about Army plans to divest of TH-67 and OH-58 helicopters, and are asking for an Army report on what will happen to the airframes and what effect divestment might have on the rotary wing industrial base.