Defense Primer: U.S. Defense Appropriations Process

The following is the Nov. 17, 2022, Congressional Research Service Defense Primer: Defense Appropriations Process. From the report The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse in Article I, Section 9, which provides that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” To fulfill this duty, […]

The following is the Nov. 17, 2022, Congressional Research Service Defense Primer: Defense Appropriations Process.

From the report

The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse in Article I, Section 9, which provides that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” To fulfill this duty, Congress annually considers appropriations measures, which provide funding for numerous activities—such as national defense, education, and homeland security—consistent with policies and priorities established through various enacted measures, such as the National Defense Authorization Act.

The congressional appropriations process includes various rules and practices that Congress has adopted to distinguish appropriations measures and facilitate their consideration. These measures generally provide funding authority in response to the President’s budget request for a fiscal year (October 1 through September 30).

Committees of Jurisdiction

The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations exercise jurisdiction over annual appropriations measures. Each committee has 12 subcommittees, each of which is responsible for developing one regular annual appropriations bill. These measures determine which department activities will be funded. House and Senate Appropriations subcommittee jurisdictions are generally parallel. The main subcommittees that deal with defense matters are:

    • Subcommittees on Defense, with jurisdiction over appropriations for the Departments of Army, Navy (including the Marine Corps), and Air Force (including the Space Force); the Office of the Secretary of Defense; defense agencies; and intelligence activities.
    • Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, with jurisdiction over appropriations for the Military Construction, Chemical Demilitarization Construction, Military Family Housing Construction and Operation and Maintenance, and Base Realignment and Closure accounts; the NATO Security Investment Program; the Department of Veterans Affairs; and other related agencies.
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, with jurisdiction over all defense-related activities of the Department of Energy, including the National Nuclear Security Administration. This subcommittee also has jurisdiction over the civil works activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among other non-defense activities.

The Congressional Budget Resolution

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-344) provides for the annual consideration of a concurrent resolution on the budget, which allows Congress to establish overall budgetary and fiscal policy to be implemented through enactment of subsequent legislation. The budget resolution, in part, establishes a limit on total new budget authority and outlay levels divided among 20 functional categories—such as national defense, agriculture, and transportation—that set spending priorities.

Section 302(a) of the Congressional Budget Act requires the total new budget authority and outlays in the budget resolution to be allocated among all committees with spending jurisdiction. This establishes ceilings on spending for legislation reported from each committee that can be enforced procedurally through points of order during consideration of the legislation. All discretionary spending is allocated to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which are required to subdivide this allocation among their 12 subcommittees under Section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Act. These suballocations are also enforceable during consideration of legislation, preventing the consideration of amendments that would increase funding above these limits. In the absence of agreement on a budget resolution, the House and Senate may use alternative means to establish enforceable limits.

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