The Senate version of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (HR933) passed today with a 73-26 vote. The bill decreases funding across government agencies by nearly $30 billion from FY12 spending levels, including more than 600 cuts to the Pentagon's budget.
"While I am pleased to see my colleagues come together and make some progress on reducing federal spending today, it is not enough," said Senator Begich. "As we turn to the larger budget debate, I will not be shy about calling out waste and inefficiency as I see it. If my colleagues are serious about getting our federal spending under control then we'll all have to make sacrifices and feel the pain."
Sen. Begich attempted to reduce the FY12 budget even further in today's bill. He co-led an amendment with Sen. Ayotte (R-NH) to decrease Army spending on the Medium-Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) by $381 million. MEADS is an over-budget, behind-schedule weapons program the Department of Defense (DOD) continues to fund despite test failures, cost overruns and lack of warfighter value. Unfortunately, the amendment was not included in the final bill. Still, the additional 671 cuts made to the Pentagon's budget by Sen. Begich and his colleagues brought spending down by $29 billion compared to FY12 for DOD.
Like the House version, the Senate bill includes the remainder of the fiscal year (FY) appropriations for the DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also includes the remainder of FY13 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, and the Department of Commerce. All other agencies were funded at FY12 levels through the continuing resolution.
By including annual appropriations for certain agencies the bill allows for lowering overall spending while reallocating spending to the priority areas for those agencies.
Begich also supported cuts to other agency budgets including:
* $17 million from the screening technology budget for the Transportation Security Administration;
* $500 million from the Customs and Border Patrol headquarters, management and administration costs.
In addition to making meaningful cuts to federal spending, this bill also included support for some key Alaska priorities:
* $18 million was provided for construction of firing training ranges for soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright; and
* $53 million in funding for staffing new Indian Health Services facilities including those in Alaska.
The House of Representatives is expected to accept the Senate changes to the bill.