House GOP leaders are taking this procedural step to show there are the votes to override a potential veto of the plan. Obama vetoed an earlier version of the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), due to a broader dispute over how much domestic and military funding should be increased.
But that fight was settled last week paving the way for this new version of the defense authorization bill to be moved through Congress. Still, Republicans will not officially scrap their plans to hold an override vote on Obama’s earlier veto until they are sure this version of the bill can be signed into law.
The need to find $5 billion in cuts is the result of a drawn-out fight between the Republican-led Congress and Democrats over the use of a war account, the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, in the $612 billion defense authorization bill cleared by Congress earlier this year.
The White House argued that Republicans were simply trying to find a workaround to alleviate pressure on defense spending alone by tapping the war chest instead of lifting the sequestration-era budget caps that were holding all government discretionary spending down.
Lawmakers settled those concerns in a budget that Congress passed last week and the president signed on Monday. Under that agreement, defense spending is constrained to about $607 billion – meaning it was incumbent on leaders from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to come up with about $5 billion in cuts.
According to a document outlining the changes, the biggest cuts come from:
• A reduction in personnel spending at the Defense Department headquarters for a savings of $435 million;
• Lowering estimates of how many civilians the DOD will employ to save $262.5 million,
• Reducing planned funding increases for Army readiness programs to save $250 million;
• Reducing planned funding increases for Air National Guard readiness to save $192.6 million; and
• A $250 million reduction in the president’s counterterrorism partnership fund, which is used for operations in Africa and the Middle East that have faced funding problems in the past and were already facing a spending reduction under the original NDAA.
Negotiators also found about $1.1 billion in savings by recalculating the cost of fuel, which they were able to accomplish due to lower oil prices, and taking into account that the contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber was awarded later than expected, saving about $230 million.
The deal did not cut funding for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System or the tethered Army spy blimp, which is as JLENS and has been criticized for its price tag and attracted attention and ridicule when it broke free last week.