COVID-19 crisis tightens Congressional oversight on US defense spending

Following the recent release of Congressional markups of the National Defense budget request for Fiscal Year 2021;

Nicolas Jouan, Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“Few would actually be surprised by the markups proposed by the House and Senate respective Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) to amend the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. A bipartisan agreement signed last year for a national defense budget topping US$740.5bn in FY 2021 has left lawmakers careful with where the money is actually going. More recently, the COVID-19 crisis has been a case in point for the committees to remind military leaders on the necessity to tap into their important funds already at disposal as the Department of Defense (DoD) and big contractors such as Boeing were lobbying for federal aids. Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the HASC, was speaking for many when he said last April that he would stand against aids for the DoD beyond the CARES Act.

“The Pentagon is reportedly working on a funding request under section 3610 of the CARES Act, aiming at a low ‘double-digit billion’ in aids to face COVID-19 disruptions. This request is a fair play, but Congress is now holding the service branches into account for whatever is considered as a doubtful use of money. Hence the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) US$85.5m cut by the HASC or the Navy’s next generation large surface combatant program US$60.4m cut by the SASC, both suspect of problematic budget planning and unconvincing interim results. Such scrupulous oversight is likely to become the new normal to control record-high defense spending as the COVID-19 crisis keeps Congress under extreme financial pressure.”

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