June 18, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the support of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), the United States Senate today passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act with provisions important to Maine. Most notably, the bill includes a provision authored by Senator King that would authorize an additional $400 million in incremental funding for an additional DDG-51 class destroyer as well as a provision that improves the eligibility criteria for the HUBZone program.
“This legislation continues to demonstrate the vital role that Maine plays in supporting our national security,” Senator King said. “And from authorizing funding for an additional DDG-51 that could be built at Bath Iron Works to expanding and improving the HUBZone program to assist communities that have been impacted by the recent closure of a military base, it’s also a bill that will support Maine jobs as we work to bolster our security at home and our presence abroad.”
The bill, which Senator King worked on as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supported when it passed out of the committee on May 14, 2015, includes the following provisions significant to Maine:
Following final passage of the 2016 NDAA, Senator King opposed a procedural motion to proceed to the defense appropriations bill. While the NDAA authorizes funding and programs, the defense appropriations bill directs the government to spend money. Senator King opposed moving onto consideration of the appropriations bill because he does not believe Congress should use emergency war contingency funding to avoid the spending caps to fund defense priorities and that Congress should not ignore caps to spending on the domestic side. Following the vote, Senator King called on his colleagues to end sequestration across the entire government and not just for defense spending:
“We are only hurting our country and future generations by refusing to fix sequestration once and for all. It’s far past time for us to get rid of this problem all together – not just for one department, not using budget gimmicks, and not when we’re up against an October deadline,” Senator King said. “I hope that rather than slinging partisan shots at one another, we can sit down, and negotiate a serious compromise that will include the right mix of targeted spending cuts and revenue increases that are needed to grow our economy and create jobs while still getting a handle on our national debt.
“Now let me be clear: my vote should not be misconstrued as opposition to the vital funding that supports our national security missions underway across the globe or our servicemen and women. In fact, there is much in this bill that I strongly support. At the same time, there are critical national security provisions – like the FBI and Border Control, which are not included in the defense bill and which are left fully subject to the sequester,” Senator King continued. “I will continue to push for that important funding – but only as part of a balanced package of appropriations bills that eliminates sequestration.”
The 2016 defense appropriations bill, which contains provisions that Senator King supports – such as an additional $1 billion for the construction of an additional DDG-51 destroyer pushed for by Senator Susan Collins – lifts sequestration on defense spending by adding borrowed funds rather than paying for the additional spending via cuts or revenues. However, other appropriations bill under consideration in the Senate – including those for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Border Control, Coast Guard, and other national security priorities – maintain the sequester cuts, thereby continuing to starve important priorities and programs from education programs to infrastructure investment to national security and beyond.
Additionally, the defense appropriation bill draws money from within the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account – an emergency war funding account – as a workaround on the budget caps set by sequestration. As a result, defense spending in the legislation is increased without violating the technical limitations in current law. However, national security leaders across military services have said it is not optimal to increase defense spending via a one-year OCO increase to support core military programs that are typically funded using five-year projections of predictable funding.
Senator King has long been a proponent for responsible budgeting, calling on his colleagues repeatedly to eliminate sequestration. He is a member of a small bipartisan group of senators working to solve the sequester across the government.