U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a measure in Congress that would grant the U.S. Department of Defense "transfer authority," to help the military cope with impending budget shortfalls.
H.R. 810, the DOD Budget Transparency and Transfer Act, will immediately assist in averting certain negative budgetary impacts that the military says are caused by the Continuing Resolution (CR) and sequestration.
The current CR locks 2013 funding at 2012 levels, including specific budget allocations for the development and construction of weapons systems and research initiatives--what are referred to as "investment accounts"--many of which have excess funding. Hanabusa's proposal would allow the military to transfer those excess funds to the Operations and Maintenance budget, which can be used for civilian staff salaries and permitted contracts.
"The services have more funds in so-called investment accounts than they need, but much less in operations and maintenance funding than required," Hanabusa said. "The CR requires that we spend at the same level for the base budget as FY12, but in FY13 we are under a new strategy and needs are much different.
"As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I participated in a briefing that included testimony from Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on sequestration and the CR, and he confirmed that if DoD is granted transfer authority, they will be able to avoid furloughs of civilian defense workers, including those at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. So by granting the military the flexibility to use its budget in the most productive way possible, we can ensure the continuation of critical priorities, preserve jobs, and still avoid increasing the budget.
"This legislation also has proper safeguards in place, as transfers may not exceed the amount authorized to applicable provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY13, and this authority, limited to only FY13, is void should an appropriations bill be enacted for the remainder of the fiscal year.
"The bottom line is that DOD is willing to work on cutting its budget, as evidenced by the $487 billion in cuts by Secretary Panetta, and another $100 billion by Secretary Gates before that. They need time to do it, and they need to outline to Congress and other stakeholders how these cuts are being implemented.
"From a business standpoint, budget flexibility makes perfect sense. From an economic standpoint, it helps avoid devastating impacts on our still-growing economy. From a defense standpoint, it allows the military to deploy its reduced budget in a strategic manner to maintain our level of readiness."