Senate Should Pass Budget Plan Before Defense Authorization

Jun 27, 2019 | Budgets & Projections

For Immediate Release

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 to authorize defense spending at President Trump’s proposed level of $750 billion. If lawmakers appropriated at that level, it would represent a $34 billion nominal increase relative to last year’s level and about $100 billion above current law defense caps. The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

The Senate is about to decide its defense policy without a budget or agreement on spending cap levels. How can we set security priorities without knowing how much we have to spend?

There is broad agreement around setting defense caps above sequester levels, but we should decide on those levels within the confines and trade-offs of an overall budget. And any increase in the statutory caps should be fully offset to avoid increasing today’s record-high debt levels.

Spending at the Senate NDAA levels without offsets could ultimately cost more than a trillion dollars over the next decade. If we match that increase on the non-defense side, it could cost more than two trillion dollars. This should absolutely be a non-starter.

Before passing major authorization bills, lawmakers should agree to affordable and achievable discretionary spending levels. To the extent this requires an increase in current law caps, the increase should be accompanied by offsetting spending reductions and revenue. A responsible budget plan would also extend caps beyond 2021 at realistic growth rates and improve the integrity of both the caps and the overall budget process.

We put forward our own plan to Raise the Caps without Breaking the Bank, along with many alternatives.

The Congressional Budget Office warned this week that our debt will nearly double as a share of the economy in 30 years under current law. Imagine how high it will grow if we keep adding to the debt without regard to the consequences.

As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen has warned, that debt is our greatest national security threat.

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For more information, please contact Patrick Newton, press secretary, at newton@crfb.org.