Defense panel directors discuss 2017 defense policy bill

Defense panel directors discuss 2017 defense policy bill
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Staff directors for the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Tuesday shed some insight on the upcoming conference between the two panels to hash out their different versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, before sending it back to both chambers for final passage. 

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Speaking on a panel at the American Enterprise Institute, Chris Brose, staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected the major sticking points between the two committees' bills to be over the bills' different funding levels, military health reform, and acquisition reform. 

Bob Simmons, staff director for the House Armed Services Committee, defended the House panel's decision to authorize shifting $23 billion from the Pentagon's war fund to the base budget and rely on the incoming administration to request more money by next March. The Senate's bill sticks to funding levels set in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act.  

During a session for reporters after the panel, Simmons said the House's move was exactly what Democrats did when President Obama came into office in 2008. 

"I do want to point out that this approach that we're taking is the exact approach that the Democrats when they controlled the Congress took in 2008 to initiate the Obama administration," Simmons said. 

"It's not like we haven't done this before, and in fact it was the Democrats who did it last time," he said. "Then the candidate who ends up being the president can make their own assessment of what the foreign policy is, and the direction they want to take the country, then ask us for the funding appropriate for that effort." 

Simmons called the president's veto threat over the bill's tactic "ironic." 

"We're doing all these things to help the Department Defense," he said. "If he's going to veto it, then he's certainly operating under a false pretense because we're taking care of the warfighter." 

The war funds would be used to pay for retaining more troops, providing a miiltary pay raise, and funding equipment requested by the services but not funded under the president's 2017 defense budget proposal.