House lawmakers are preparing to vote this week on a new draft of the annual defense authorization bill, which would trim spending totals by about $5 billion but leave intact an overhaul of the military retirement system and the renewal of a host of specialty pays.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters that he expects the new authorization bill to be voted on this week.
"There is a strong bill that's going to be coming forward that not only provides troops with pay raises, provides our troops with the tools and resources that they need and deserve, but also helps our allies, helps give resources to the Ukrainians, who want to fight against Russian aggression, helps our Middle East allies, who want to fight ISIS," he said.
House Armed Services Committee staffers are still working to finalize the new measure, which will match the $607 billion spending cap outlined in the new two-year budget deal.
That's well above the original cap mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but still $5 billion below what the Pentagon and Congress had hoped to spend this year.
To close that gap, negotiators made a $1 billion adjustment to fuel cost accounts for fiscal 2016, anticipating lower-than-projected oil prices. About another $450 million will come from already scheduled cuts to Defense Department headquarters staffs, and $250 million more from reductions in the national counterterrorism partnership fund.
Several programs will also see funding trims. The Air Force long-range bomber program will see a $230 million reduction from the original fiscal 2016 authorization measure and the Navy's DDG-51 Destroyer program will get a $150 million cut.
Army and National Guard readiness accounts will see almost another $450 million in reductions.
But reform proposals included in the original authorization bill will not be changed. They include sweeping acquisition reforms proposed by lawmakers and the retirement overhaul, which would dump the traditional all-or-nothing 20-year system for a blended plan featuring 401(k)-style investments and a reduced pension.
The authorization bill also includes a host of pay and bonus renewals, moves that defense advocates lamented would have been jeopardized if the president's veto became the final word on the bill.
President Obama had praised much of the original authorization measure but vetoed it over ongoing budget fights with Hill Republicans. The legislation has been passed into law for 53 consecutive years, a rare bipartisan accomplishment for the often divided legislative branch.
No timeline has been set for Senate consideration, though Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he expects quick passage of the measure.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.