Yesterday the Senate’s defense appropriations subcommittee approved an FY13 bill, hitting the major marks from a script that the full committee assigned in April. Specifically, the panel matched the current, tighter Budget Control Act cap rather than aiming for a looser ceiling, which was the guidepost for the administration’s request, or ignoring BCA caps altogether as the House of Representatives did in its bill. Yet things still are far from simple.
Our own Russell Rumbaugh unpacked the full committee’s script right when it was released to reveal a number of complicated shifts within it. Cuts from the base, non-war defense request were offset by increases in defense’s overseas contingency operations title, which is exempt from BCA caps. That could create too naked of a cap-dodging appearance, though, so the State Department OCO request would be correspondingly reduced to keep total OCO costs consistent with the request. (And still the International Affairs budget function would mirror its 2012 value, if base and OCO are included.)
That script directed the defense panel toward a base mark of just over $511 billion, of which all but roughly $300 million is part of the cap. Per the panel’s summary, it came in at a value of $511.2 billion, fitting within the cap after subtracting out that $300 million, while also sticking with the scripted OCO budget of $93.3 billion.
That's a remarkable achievement, especially after the White House and House of Representatives surpassed the cap. But taking from International Affairs to pay for National Defense comes with its own problems, and that's a risk the Senate continues to seem willing to take.