As previously reported on The Reserve Officer, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently announced a decision to discontinue the practice of providing the Congress with formal lists of programs that were excluded from the president’s budget request. However, yesterday Senators argued that they cannot determine the military’s budgetary needs without the lists, known formally as the Unfunded Priorities Lists. As Congress continues to hold hearings to analyze the defense budget for FY 2013, they also need to consider what may be omitted from the Pentagon’s initial budget proposal. Chief of among the Senators’ objections: these lists, which have effectively been an extension of the Pentagon’s annual spending request for more than a decade, provide insight that may otherwise be overlooked. In a series of letters sent to the service chiefs, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John Cornyn (R-TX) said “Without your input, we do not believe that Congress can accurately determine the level of resources necessary to provide for our national defense.” The lack of information could further limit the services in their force structure, end strength, and modernization as they attempt to meet the roughly $250 billion in cuts.
Whether or not the Joint Chiefs comply with the request from the Senators, the deadline for the mark- ups are drawing near. The House Armed Services Committee members will begin issuing their drafts on the defense spending budget on Thursday, April 26. A full mark-up of the spending package for FY 2013 will be delivered by the House on May 9, with the Senate expected to issue their version later that month.