Wittman Announces Measures to Bring ‘Regular Order’ to Budget Process
By SARA FUENTES, Special Correspondent
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., announced Jan. 11 that he is reintroducing two bills as part of his ongoing efforts to ensure a return to “regular order” in funding the government: The “No Budget, No Pay Act” and the “Stay on Schedule Resolution.”
Wittman told an audience at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium that with a return to regular appropriations bills, it would help Congress better focus on the needs of the military, such as adding the $5 billion per year he estimated will be necessary to support the Navy’s Force Structure Assessment fleet recommendation of 355 ships.
The No Budget, No Pay Act (H.R. 429) will hold the salaries of members of Congress in escrow if their respective chamber does not pass a budget by the middle of April, and the Stay on Schedule Resolution (H.Res.43) blocks the House from taking its August recess if it has not passed all 12 appropriations bills by mid-summer, according to a release on Wittman’s office website.
The announcement of the two bills received resounding applause from the military and defense industry audience. This is the third consecutive year that Wittman has introduced No Budget, No Pay and the second time he has introduced the Stay on Schedule Resolution.
Congress faces an especially busy year, as it must finish appropriations for the remainder of fiscal 2017 and pass the fiscal 2018 bills that are expected to arrive later than scheduled — as per usual during changes in administration — creating a compressed calendar to finish the bills.
Wittman expressed frustration with recent budget issues, framing his introduced bills as a way for Congress to accept greater accountability toward fulfilling its role in passing bills that support the needs of U.S. national defense. He said “members of Congress have to be willing to take the responsibility and place it upon themselves to get things done.”
He noted his own duty, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, in reaching out to other members of the House to ensure they understand the needs of the military, including regular and predictable budgets.
Wittman’s criticized continuing resolutions, which fund the government at the previous year’s funding levels, noting that it has been 20 years since all appropriations bills were passed on schedule. He said repealing sequestration, enacted by the Budget Control Act, is the first step toward meeting the country’s national security needs.
He also took issue with the series of supplemental funding, or Overseas Contingency Operations funds, noting that with “over 16 years” of supplemental funding of “tens of billions of dollars,” it no longer is, in his view, a “contingency” fund. Wittman called on Congress and the Department of Defense to assess what the real base defense budget should be and end the practice of funding long-term projects through the contingency fund.
Wittman called on Congress to make a commitment of an increase of at least 60 percent, or $5 billion per year, to the shipbuilding account. When asked about balancing his $5 billion increase with the need to fund the Columbia-class submarine fleet, he said that the National Sea-based Strategic Deterrent Fund will help alleviate the pressure and ensure there will not be a competition for dollars between the Columbia class and other ships in the Navy.
He also suggested potential changes to the Research, Development, Test & Evaluation process, arguing for more flexibility for the services to experiment with new technologies instead of having to create new programs of record, naming flexibility and accountability as a goal.