How the defense authorization bill is tracking

Wednesday - 5/5/2010, 10:40am EDT

Jodi Schneider, Senior Editor, American Banker

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal News Radio has told you that in terms of your agency's budget, this year will likely be like many years before it resulting in the need for a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded beyond the October first deadline.

There is, however, one good candidate to be the exception to that as the 2011 defense authorization bill makes its way through hearings across the Hill.

Congressional expert and Senior Editor in the Washington Bureau of the American Banker, Jodi Schneider, said "this is one of the few bills likely to get a markup this month before the Memorial Day recess, so it's at the head of the queue."

So far, said Schneider, "we've had a little bit of interesting back and forth between the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and the House Armed Services chairman, Ike Skelton".

There are two items currently at issue with the bill, said Schneider: the cost of maintaining the roughly 300-ship Navy and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring homosexuals from military service.

Skelton's home state of Missouri isn't exactly known for shipbuilding, so Gates is relatively safe in asking as he did recently at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition "whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 to 6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers." (More on that from DoD Buzz at dodbuzz.com.)

Often, said Schneider, defense bills "become a strategic discussion as well as one about price tags," and this has the potential to escalate into a showdown.

Because you'll have on one side the administration saying "Hey we're trying to hold the line on this and we're trying to make some decisions about manned versus unmanned crafts." But on the other side you've got the people defending it, from the (manufacturing) districts, as well as the Appropriations chairmen that basically... when they have things in their budget that they want there, they're going to fight for those.

The other piece of legislation getting attention from Congress, said Schneider, concerns financial regulation. The future of that, she said, is far less certain.

"Every day it's a different story. 'They're moving forward, they're moving back, they're moving forward, they're moving back.'"

The Senate Armed Services Committee has kept through May 28th open in case the markup of defense appropriations takes longer than expected (May 27th.)