Fiscal Responsibility Act Includes Cap On Discretionary Spending, Boosting Potential For Oklahoma Military Installations

Oklahoma military installations would see significant benefits under defense authorization bills making their way, respectively, through the U.S. House and Senate, even as congressional budget writers are constrained by GOP-imposed spending caps.

Thursday, July 6th 2023, 5:39 pm



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Oklahoma military installations would see significant benefits under defense authorization bills making their way, respectively, through the U.S. House and Senate, even as congressional budget writers are constrained by GOP-imposed spending caps.

A key aspect of the debt limit deal (aka, Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023) that Republican House leaders negotiated with President Joe Biden was capping discretionary spending the next two years. That included limiting defense spending to a three percent increase.

There are some on Capitol Hill who don't believe that will be enough.

"I think the cardinals and our defense appropriators certainly believe that those numbers should be plussed up," Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) said in an interview, using the colloquial term for the chairs of the 12 appropriations subcommittees.

As for whether Congresswoman Bice believes the $886 billion topline number agreed to by Speaker McCarthy for defense is insufficient, Bice is noncommittal.

"We’ve got to continue to make sure that we are funding our military in a way that we can protect this country," Bice said, "and that does mean investments."

Some of the proposed investments of particular importance to Oklahoma include $160 million in combined spending on military construction at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The same bill also includes more than $700 million to speed up procurement of Boeing's E-7 Wedgetail, which the Air Force has decided will replace the aging fleet of E-3 Sentries at Tinker.

If approved, the legislation would also adjust the pay scale for junior enlisted troops, resulting in a 30 percent raise for them. An additional 5.2 percent pay hike for all military personnel is included in both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA

"We have to realize there’s real inflation happening," Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said in a recent interview.

Sen. Mullin sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is among those who believe the limits imposed by the debt ceiling bill could potentially put national security at risk.

"So, there may be a case, moving forward, that we have to have a supplement package to help offset those inflation prices," Mullin said.

A supplemental, however, might not sit well with Democrats who are upset that many of their favored domestic programs were cut, or with Freedom Caucus conservatives who wanted deeper cuts to begin with.

"We can be both efficient and make sure that we have a military that’s strong," Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK2) said in an interview, "we can do both."

The need for a supplemental defense appropriation would take on new urgency, if Congress doesn’t pass all 12 appropriations bills by the end of the calendar year. In that case, the debt limit deal mandates a one percent across-the-board cut to all agencies, including the Pentagon.

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