As Unfunded Precedence Lists Pour In, Austin Backs an Effort to Finish Them

Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III needs “want lists” would simply go away.  

Requested by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) whether or not he would favor repealing the legislation requiring service leaders to offer Congress with a listing of unfunded priorities at a Senate Armed Providers Committee hear, Austin mentioned “I’d help that.”  

The unfunded priorities lists—or “want lists” as some name them—have been an annual ceremony of spring in Washington for practically three many years. Critics from each events say they’re a backdoor across the administration, enabling service leaders to make direct appeals to Congress and undermining the manager department.  

Warren is amongst a bipartisan quartet of Senators looking for to finish the method. Together with Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Angus King (I-Maine), she launched the Streamline Pentagon Spending Act late within the final Congress, looking for to finish the statutory requirement for UPLs. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) provided a corresponding invoice within the Home.  

The laws has but to be formally reintroduced within the new Congress, however Warren’s questions point out her continued curiosity.  

“This yr’s Division of Protection request is an $842 billion finances, one of many largest budgets in historical past,” Warren mentioned. “Now, regardless of the huge measurement of this finances request, the committee is already receiving letters from numerous elements of DOD saying that they want billions of {dollars} extra. DOD calls these unfunded precedence lists. I name them want lists. And I’m involved about how they distort our finances course of.”  

In final yr’s finances cycle, the navy companies and unified instructions requested greater than $20 billion mixed. Based on media stories, this yr the Air Power is looking for one other $2.5 billion in unfunded priorities, the Area Power is looking for $434 million, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is searching for $3.5 billion.  

Lawmakers use the lists to spice up the Pentagon’s topline finances and take away obstacles to funding imposed by whichever get together is within the White Home on the time. Austin mentioned the bottom finances request this yr covers the necessities the administration sees as essential to help the brand new Nationwide Protection Technique.  

“The service chiefs and commanders are required by legislation to submit these unfunded requests,” Austin informed legislators. “And I do consider that all of our commanders and chiefs consider that what’s on there’s vital. Now, I’ve requested our commanders and our chiefs to ensure that they construct their necessities for readiness and fight functionality into their base finances.”  

Warren famous that previous testimony from combatant commanders indicated they see funding unfunded priorities as essential to fight surprising, rising threats. She pressed Austin on whether or not the Pentagon has “enough instruments to handle rising threats with out counting on the unfunded precedence record.”  

Austin mentioned it does. “We account for that as we construct the finances,” he mentioned.  

 Warren famous additionally that DOD Comptroller Michael J. McCord, in response to queries concerning the unfunded precedence lists, had written that such lists are “not an efficient approach to illuminate our joint priorities.”  

In each finances battle, at each step of the method, there are winners and losers. Unfunded priorities are unfunded as a result of they didn’t win favor with determination makers at one or one other stage. In 2009, then-Protection Secretary Robert Gates cracked down on the apply, which he noticed as difficult his authority as secretary. Lawmakers objected, saying it’s the accountability of navy officers testifying earlier than Congress to share their greatest navy judgment, reasonably than communicate for the present administration. In 2016, they pushed by means of a measure within the 2017 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act formalizing the method for presenting the lists. The measure Warren is pursuing would repeal that requirement.