Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chair, I rise today to bring to your attention a non-partisan, good governance issue--accountability and transparency. Specifically, accountability and transparency for the War Budget, which for accounting purposes is treated separately from the Department of Defense (DoD) Base Budget.
The Government Accountability Office, GAO, the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, and the Congressional Research Service, CRS, have all testified before Congress about the limited transparency in DoD war cost estimating and reporting) Despite this challenge, members from both political parties have worked in a bipartisan manner to support our 43rd and 44th Commanders in Chief to ensure that our troops have the war-related resources they need to win the Global War on Terror. As we move forward, it is my hope that we will preserve this spirit of bipartisanship while also working to overcome the challenge of providing good faith estimates about what our war effort actually costs.
Last year's Budget and Control Act, BCA (P.L. 112 25) appropriately recognized the distinction made by previous Congresses between the Base Budget and the War Budget. It places specific limits, or caps, on the Base Budget; the War Budget, however, has no limit. This creates a potential loophole for the President and/or Congress to evade the BCA limits by moving money for regular activities from the Base Budget to the War Budget's unlimited resources.
This is the first full cycle of Budget requests, authorizations, and appropriations under the BCA. Despite the varied views on the law, the President and the Congress have a duty to abide by its letter and spirit unless an alternative law is agreed upon. This bill is not about finding an alternative replacement for the BCA; it's about making sure the men and women in harm's way have the appropriate legal authority and resources to effectively fight on our behalf. It should also be about providing for our troops in an accountable and transparent manner.
The FY2013 Budget Request calls for shifting $6.1 billion in basic compensation for military personnel from the Base Budget to the War Budget. The troops associated with these costs are currently not deployed in overseas combat operations. Rather, they are part of the troop reductions set to begin next year. This means the FY2013 War Request and this bill's War Budget are overstated by $6.1 billion with basic compensation costs that have traditionally been funded through the Base Budget. As the GAO has stated, "Costs that are incurred regardless of whether there is a [war] operation, such as the base pay of active duty military personnel, are not considered [war-related] (emphasis added).'' This new use of the War Budget for base pay was highlighted earlier this year at a House Budget Committee oversight hearing entitled The Department of Defense and Fiscal Year 2013 Budget. It is a clear circumvention of the BCA limits.
As we move forward in the Budget process, we should aim to ensure our troops receive full, base salaries and benefits from their usual source--the Base Budget. After all, the primary reason we employ troops is to protect our nation, and we need to continue to use the Base Budget to compensate our troops. This bill undermines public reporting of accurate War costs by accepting the President's request to shift $6.1 billion in base salaries from the Base Budget to the War Budget. However, neither the President's request nor this bill actually funds the DoD. So, in the days ahead I urge us to work towards preserving the integrity of the law by restoring accountability and transparency between the Base Budget and the War Budget.
If we fail to bring to light any potential exploitation of BCA loopholes in the law's early years of enforcement, then we simply make tomorrow's challenges greater while willfully turning a blind eye to the oversight record provided by the GAO, CRS, CBO and other credible sources.
H.R. 4310 was reported out of the Armed Service Committee and passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 56 5 and 299 120, respectively. I applaud the Armed Services Committee for including report language that states, "[Section 403] would require that the [FY2014 2017] Department of Defense budget request include amounts for the end strength of the regular component of the Army and the Marine Corps in the base budget and not through emergency, supplemental, or overseas contingency operation funds.'' I hope the bipartisan majority supporting the bill will have the opportunity this year to accelerate its call to fully compensate our troops in an accountable and transparent manner.