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House, Senate Negotiators Reach Defense Bill Deal

DF-ST-87-06962House and Senate negotiators have reached a deal on a compromise version of a defense authorization act for fiscal year 2013, which Defense News reports allocates $631 billion in funding for the Pentagon.

The goal was to iron out differences between both chambers’ bills and get a final bill to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature by the week’s end.

Negotiators not only had to find common ground on differences between the chambers but also try and address the administration’s objections, as it threatened to veto the Senate’s version of the bill.

McAleese & Associates highlighted several of those differences in an analysis, including reductions to the Pentagon’s civilian-contractor workforce and funding for future programs.

The Senate included language in its bill requiring the Defense Department to cut its civilian and service contractor workforce by 5 percent over five years, resulting in budget savings of $5 billion.

The White House believes the civilian workforce numbers should be based on workload and funding and not on comparisons to the military.

Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) has said the proposed civilian cut matches reductions in military personnel.

Both the House and Senate prohibited the Pentagon from obligating fiscal year 2013 funds for the Medium Extended Air Defense System and negotiators left that ban in the final bill.

The White House believes not appropriating the funds will lead to Italy and Germany perceiving that action as breaking a prior commitment.

According to Defense News, the compromise bill requires defense officials to study options for an East Coast-based missile defense site but includes no requirement to use funding for the site.

In the Senate’s version, $100 million would have gone toward building the site, which the Senate wants operational by Dec. 31, 2015 and aimed at deterring Iran.

Requiring such a site is premature in the White House’s eyes, as it says it has not identified whether the U.S. needs a third site nor assessed feasibility and cost.

The Global Hawk Block 30 program is another point of contention, as the Senate voted to terminate that unmanned aerial vehicle program but the House voted to retain it.

In its objections to the House’s version of the bill, the White House cited that aircraft as under-resourced and said it opposed attempts to restrict retirement of that aircraft.

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