$603 billion is the magic number for DoD in 2018

The possibility of seeing a huge budget increase for defense in 2018 just got tampered down a bit by a top House appropriator.

House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) said $603 billion is a reasonable goal for the 2018 defense appropriations bill. That’s the same amount President Donald Trump requested in his 2018 budget request.

“I hate to say that when the need is greater, but that’s what we’ll work toward,” Granger, said during a May 18 Bloomberg event in Washington.

Granger’s comments come as the two top defense authorizers in Congress — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) — are calling for a $640 billion defense budget for 2018.

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McCain said the $640 billion is needed because we are living in a “world on fire” and the military’s readiness is eroding.

“If all things were equal I agree with their number, but I don’t see how we get there particularly with what we’ve got with that caps and that sort of thing. So if you say, ‘Do we need to be there?’ Yes we do and I can defend that number and I’ve talked to both of those men about that, but I don’t see how we get to that number this year. But we can certainly get as close as we can this year and then the next year and the next year,” Granger said.

Congress funded the Defense Department to $593 billion for 2017.

If Congress wants to fund the DoD to the $603 billion for 2018 that Trump proposed in his budget request, the agency first needs to come to a budget deal to avoid sequestration.

That will require bipartisan support, which may involve raising the sequestration caps for domestic spending as well.

Granger said she was optimistic about creating a five-year plan to restore the military readiness.

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“We know pretty much how short we are and we can’t make that up in one budget. I’m looking at five probably to really make a difference there,” Granger said.

The 2017 bill is an increase of almost $20 billion from 2016. If Congress can reach the $603 billion mark, that would be another $14 billion increase.

However, it’s important to note that DoD is still not auditable and therefore not fully accountable for the money it spends.

DoD and Congress are continuing to call for higher levels of spending, without really knowing where the money is going.

DoD is supposed to be fully auditable by 2018, but the progress on that plan makes 2018 look like just a pipedream.

Granger maintained that time is not on Congress nor DoD’s side when it comes to the use of money.

“We are having to move so fast. I met with my subcommittee staff yesterday for them to outline what they have to do from now until [the appropriations bill] and it’s going to be really hard and there’s not a lot of time there for looking at all these issues,” Granger said.

She did agree however that there needs to be oversight in DoD’s spending.

“We have to look at how that money is being used … but it’s not going to happen really right now,” Granger said.

While Congress works on appropriating the money, DoD found that $125 billion over five years could be saved from cutting back on contractors and streamlining IT systems.

That’s not to mention many other areas of waste, fraud and abuse within the department.