Today at 11:00AM ET the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will mark-up its FY 2009 Defense Appropriations bill.
If you remember our post in April, the FY09 budget has the Air Force request of $831.759 M for the "Next Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft", which is a new budget item. (Source: pg 34, line #83 of FY09 RTD&E Programs Budget) There is also available in FY09 $239.8 M from the "Tanker Replacement Transfer Fund," which are funds remaining from FY05 and FY08 appropriations that went unspent.
Since the decision to recompete the contract, SecDef Gates had requested all FY2009 tanker funds be move to the Tanker Replacement Transfer Fund.
We will not opine as to what the Subcommittee will do in mark-up other to say that there should be active discussion on the amount tanker funding the Air Force needs given that the procurement has been delayed. Also, there may be some limitations placed on the tanker funding.
A limitation places a restriction on the expenditure of funds provided in an appropriations bill, either by setting a spending ceiling, or by prohibiting the use of funds for a specified purpose(s). Congress is not required to provide funds for every agency or purpose authorized by law. It may provide funds for some activities or projects under an agency, but not others. Precedents require that the language be phrased in the negative, for example, that none of the funds provided in this paragraph (typically an account) shall be used for a specified activity.(Source: Walter Kravitz, Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary: Third Edition, pp. 139-140)
Limitations included in the text of the legislation are legally binding; limitations provided only in the committee reports and managers’ statements are not legally binding, but are routinely followed.
At this point in the Tanker War nothing is routine, and language short of law will could very well be ignored by DoD. So, we expect the any tanker limitations to be in the legislation not just be report language.
Any cuts to or limitations placed on the tanker funding will be the first legislative action on the tanker issue since the GAO issued its decision. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is not scheduled to mark-up their bill until September.