Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill

Greg Nash

The Senate Armed Services Committee is delaying consideration of its annual defense policy bill because of “uncertainty” over when President Biden will submit his full budget request to Congress, the committee’s chairman said Thursday.

“Because of the uncertainty of the timing of the president’s budget submission, the committee has made a difficult decision to delay the markup of the NDAA until July,” committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said at the top of an unrelated hearing Thursday, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The panel typically takes up the bill, which is considered a must-pass, in May, though there are sometimes delays. Last year, for example, the committee did not consider the bill until June amid COVID-19 pandemic-related delays.

Instead of working on the defense bill in May, Reed said, the committee will now focus on confirmation hearings. The panel has 23 pending nominations to consider, he said.

In June, the panel will hear from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and the military service chiefs, Reed added.

Earlier this month, the White House released an outline of its fiscal 2022 budget request that provided top-line dollar amounts for federal government agencies. The budget outline called for $753 billion for defense, including $715 billion for the Pentagon, modest increases over this year.

But the outline provided no specifics on what the money would buy, with the White House saying a more detailed budget request would follow later.

New administrations typically do not meet the usual March time frame to deliver Congress a budget request. But the Biden administration has blamed obfuscation by the Trump team during the presidential transition for delaying its budget even more than normal for a new administration.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has publicly chastised the White House for its delay on the budget.

“I am deeply concerned about the Biden administration dragging their feet on getting us the damn budget,” Smith said at an event this month hosted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. “Shout it from the rafters. I can’t get the White House to take my calls on this one. Just send it to us.”

At an American Enterprise Institute event a week later, Smith added that his staff has told him if the budget is not submitted before mid-May, the earliest both the NDAA and annual spending bills could be considered is August.

And since Congress is unlikely to cancel its August recess, he added, that virtually guarantees lawmakers will not be able to finish their work before the end of the fiscal year, meaning a stopgap spending measure is likely.

“There is not time to get through the legislative process if we don’t get this thing before May 10,” Smith said.

Tags Adam Smith Jack Reed Joe Biden Lloyd Austin Mark Milley
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