Kaine: Budget Deal Good for Defense Industrial Base

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

The two-year budget deal that was brokered earlier this week and approved by the House of Representatives will provide the Defense Department and industry with better certainty and stability, said one senator Oct. 29.

“I think the best thing we did for the industrial base this week … was doing the two-year budget,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m a strong proponent of two-year budgets because I think they just give more certainty.”

Giving the Pentagon and the defense industry clear budgets, even if they don’t get the exact funding they want is better than unpredictability, he said during a breakfast meeting with defense reporters.

“You might like or not like the line item that you get, but you can adjust around a line item easier than adjusting around a question mark or an asterisk,” he said.

The deal, which passed by a vote of 266-167 in the House and is poised to be approved by the Senate, increases federal spending for defense and domestic programs by $80 billion. The defense budget for fiscal year 2016 would increase by about $25 billion to $548 billion. For fiscal year 2017, it would increase by $15 billion to $551 billion. Additionally, the agreement would allocate about $59 billion in overseas contingency operations funds each year for fiscal year 2016 and 2017.

During the meeting, Kaine slammed Congress and said it has been the biggest driver of inconstancy for the economy over the past several years. “If the Hippocratic Oath is first do no harm, then the congressional oath should be first provide as much certainty as you can.”

The Defense Department for too long has been mired in confusion because of budget instability, he said. “Imagine the poor Pentagon planners who are supposed to be spending their time planning against the challenging threats we have and instead they’re having to spend their time planning against” multiple budget scenarios.

“We’ve tied up so much wasted energy of people who have real jobs to do trying to figure out congressional budgetary uncertainty,” he said.

Kaine said that while he hasn’t spoken to industry groups since the deal was brokered, he was confident they were pleased with the agreement. He pointed to Huntington Ingalls Industries, which is based in his home state of Virginia, as one company that lives and dies on predictable schedules.

“If I talk to the guys at Huntington Ingalls, the shipyard in Newport News, … they say all the time, ‘Give us certainty, and then we can figure out how to flex all these different programs,’” he said.
Kaine said he hoped this deal will set a precedent for future budgets. He also noted that it had been a long road to get to this point.

“It was hell getting to the two two-year budgets. We didn’t get to the first two-year budget until [a] 16-day government shutdown and arguably we might not have got to the second two-year budget had the Speaker [of the House] not retired when he wasn’t in danger of losing his seats or his majority,” he said. “You can’t count on that always happening to help you produce a two-year budget but I think we are kind of normalizing the idea.”

Meanwhile, Kaine also noted that he and others on SASC would be closely watching the long-range strike bomber program and said some hearings might be held. On Oct. 27, the Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman had beat a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team for a lucrative contract to build the next-generation bomber.

“I do want to watch for cost and how it’s being done,” he said. “I think you’re going to start to see us have hearings on this, … not to put our thumb on the scale on the contract issuance but to try to … put some healthy pressure on the Air Force to deliver this in a way that doesn’t bust the bank.”

The program is expected to be worth $80 billion. Each aircraft is estimated to cost $564 million in 2016 dollars. They will replace aging B-52 and B-1 bombers.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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