For those seeking to impact a Defense Department research and development project, or to procure weapons systems or equipment, advance any funding line item, “PE” Program Element, or policy directive for the Pentagon in the Fiscal Year 2020 cycle in Congress and the government, a short timeframe to accomplish objectives is a challenge. How best to undertake these goals in a FY2020 DoD proposed budget by the President of over $718 Billion Dollars is the issue.
Last year, on July 26, 2018 the Congress completed their final allocation of over $708 Billion Dollars including an array of policy directions contained in a major bill entitled the “National Defense Authorization Act.” In less than two and a half weeks, the President signed the bill into law (August 13th,P.L. 115-232). The significance of the timing for completion of such a large defense bill is “typical” in that most of the decisions and work made by the Congress is squeezed into a very short time from the first hearings on NDAA to the last event at the White House—in this case last year it was less than five months from the State of the Union.
Finalized each year as an accompanying critical element to the NDAA is the Annual Fiscal Year Defense Appropriations bill. Last year, the FY2019 DoD bills were reported to the US House on June 20, 2018 and to the US Senate June 28th, and the final appropriations of $639 Billion Dollars (in a Conference Report 115-952) was signed by the President three months later on September 28th (P.L.115-245). For those who plan properly and secure professional and experienced assistance, navigating this process is achievable.
This year we find that the schedule to finalize such a large national security bill will also be within a four month timeframe and for those who have not yet begun to plan for influencing a proposed DoD FY2020 budget request of $718 B(with advocates for $750B levels)time is limited to impact results, but alternatives are available during the entire process. This particular process began late for FY2020 (which covers September 30,2019-October 1,2020).
On March 12th, the DoD released its Budget request to the Congress. Details were available online and on other sites by service and subject areas. As soon as the House and Senate Armed Services Committee could begin scheduling witnesses to appear before each of their Subcommittees for presentations of the budget and requests, it had been only two months.
The process for creating an NDAA in the Congress starts with the jurisdictions of the Subcommittees detailed below. Portions of the bill are sent to the full committee, amendments or changes are made there, combined and then sent to each body for floor consideration. Final allocations and report language (policy issues)and other provisions are made in a House-Senate Conference Committee.
Considerations to influence are as follows:
- How best to impact the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the full committee and all subcommittees and their top counsels (that would be 14 House Members and 16 Senators)
- How to impact the 31 House Majority Democratic members on the Committee and 26 Republicans, and a similar issue for the 14 Republican majority and 13 Democrats in the Senate Committee
- For FY2020, deadlines on impact these defense bills were very early on if members were to support provisions or funding levels in the bills(some as early as mid-March). Do you know what line item or PE Number your RDT&E project is? Did you secure monies last year? Have you filled out the correct information on the required NDAA form from each office?
- How will you “follow” results in each part of the process to decide how to adjust, support or defeat issues on the bill as they arise?
The first “Markup,” which is a process to put together provisions and funding levels of a bill. Sessions for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chaired by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), will be held May 20 and 21,2019 for their seven Subcommittees focused on narrow subject areas of jurisdiction. They are:
- Readiness and Management Support
- Strategic Forces
- Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Of significance is the fact that the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee Markups will be closed to the public with only Members and staff present. This hinders securing results unless one has access to Members and staffs, and most probably, a final version will be delayed until the full Committee reviews and approves the bill.
For the House Armed Services Committee, they will markup their Subcommittee portions June 4 and 5, 2019 with a very quick full committee markup of the NDAA for June 12th. ALL of their markups are as of now OPEN, but could change. Their six Subcommittees are as follows:
- Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities
- Military Personnel
- Seapower and Projection Forces
- Strategic Forces
- Tactical Air and Land Forces
Based on last year and past precedent, the ability to influence both the NDAA and the FY2020 Defense Appropriations bills are time sensitive and constrained. Both of these bills have been targeted by Congressional leadership for “completion” prior to the August recess, and indications are they could be sent to the White House rather quickly once the Conference Reports are done.
How does one influence then a multi-billion dollar defense bill in such short a space of time? Here are some considerations:
- Access to the key leadership at the right time with the right message along the journey can result in changes or additions (sometimes deletions)but it is difficult without assistance.
- Influence EARLY-ON in the process, way before the final budget is presented. This option is to visit,impact and secure support at the DoD-Service level as the new budget is being created and finalized.Most people do not realize that the FY2021 DoD budget is on its way to being finalized and sent to the Office of Management and Budget(OMB) by May and approved within six months prior to the end of the year. Visit early and often to those who will be impacted by your requests.
- Know the DoD “POM” process (Program Objective Memorandum)on allocations of items in the Defense budgets(did you know these must be at the OSD(Office of Sec.Def.)by July 30?). Know what “passback” means to ask OMB and the White House for consideration on changes to a budget item before it goes to Congress.
Influencing a Defense Department and national security final bill has many components. Some relate to foreign national and US foreign policy objectives of interest to both the foreign government and US interests. Others deal with R&D projects. Whatever you are thinking of, be sure to seek experienced and knowledgeable counsel—from the McKeon Group.
By: John Chwat
Office: (571) 447-5000
Cell: (703) 963-2917