House FY ’13 Continuing Resolution Gives DoD and VA Flexibility, Has Select IT Implications

Published: March 07, 2013

ARMYBudgetCONGRESSCybersecurityDEFENSEElectronic Health RecordDHSNational Defense Authorization ActNAVYOMBPolicy and LegislationSequestrationVA

On March 6, the House passed H.R. 933 which would appropriate funding for the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) and fund military construction projects (MilCon) for fiscal year (FY) 2013. The bill will also avert a potential government shut-down near the end of March by funding the remaining departments at their FY 2012 levels under a continuing resolution (CR) effective until the end of the fiscal year. How the bill fares in the Senate is yet to be seen.

Passage of appropriations for the DOD and VA would mean that those departments can allocate funds to new programs, which is not permitted under a continuing resolution which essentially funds the previous year’s programs at the same levels and schedules.
Specifics of H.R. 933, the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 include:
  • Total discretionary budget authority of nearly $1.2 trillion, including
  • Full-year appropriations for Defense and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs committees
  • Defense – $518 billion in non-war funding for the DoD, $87 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO)
  • MilCon/VA – $72 billion in discretionary funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs, with some shifting of funds away from military construction to support increase in veterans’ programs, which are exempt from sequestration
  • The remaining federal agencies would be funded at fiscal 2012 levels under a continuing resolution covering the remaining 6 months of fiscal 2013
Citing the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) March 1st Sequestration report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted In a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan that impact of sequestration on the $1.2 trillion appropriations would be a $68 billion reduction, lowering the overall budget authority for FY 2013 to $1.13 trillion. (An additional $17 billion reduction in mandatory spending brings the total sequestered amount to $85 billion.)
Agency-specific Provisions – Select Details
Although not comprehensive or complete, a quick review of the text of the bill looking for information technology and related acquisition provisions provides the following agency-specific examples.
Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Benefits Administration – Provides $3.3 billion for information technology, including $1 billion for staff pay, $1.8 billion for operations and maintenance, and $494 million for systems development, modernization, and enhancement. This DME funding is 2-year money available through FY 2014 but requires the VA Secretary or CIO to submit to Congress a certification of the amounts to be obligated for each project. Further, Congress requires approval of any transfers between the three funding sub-accounts or individual project funding increases/decreases of more than $1 million.
  • No more than 25% of any joint DoD-VA integrated electronic health record (iEHR) may be obligated until the DOD–VA Interagency Program Office gets the approval of both Congressional Appropriations Committees on the planned costs, timelines, acquisition, etc.
  • Of the $60.5 billion appropriated for veterans compensation and pension benefits programs no more than $9.2 million “shall be reimbursed to ‘General operating expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration’, ‘Medical support and compliance’, and ‘Information technology systems.’”
  • $115 million for the VA’s the Office of Inspector General, to include information technology costs and for constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of the facilities.
  • Only upon approval of Congress may the VA Secretary transfer funds to/from the VA’s ‘‘Information technology systems’’ account to/from the ‘‘Medical services’’, ‘‘Medical support and compliance’’, ‘‘Medical facilities’’, ‘‘General operating expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration’’, ‘‘General administration’’, and ‘‘National Cemetery Administration’’ accounts.
  • Department of Justice, General Administration, Justice Information Sharing Technology receives $22 million, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology receives $279 million, and the Office of Health Affairs receives $132.5 million, of which $85 million is for the BioWatch program.
  • None of the DoD appropriation can be used for new multiyear procurement contracts for any systems or components if the value of the multiyear contract would exceed $500 million, unless specifically provided in the bill. A cursory review finds these are predominantly weapons systems, with some mention of commercial SatCom for naval vessels.
  • The DoD provisions further stipulate that no multiyear procurement contract can be terminated without 10-day prior notification to the congressional defense committees.
  • Defense Intelligence Agency funds may be used for the design, development, and deployment of General Defense Intelligence Program intelligence communications and intelligence information systems for the Services, the Unified and Specified Commands, and the component commands, unless otherwise stated.
  • $12 million for mitigation of environmental impacts on Indian lands resulting from DoD activities, including training and technical assistance, related administrative support, the gathering of information, documenting of environmental damage, and developing a system for prioritization of mitigation and cost to complete estimates for mitigation.
  • None of the funds in the Act may be used for research, development, test, evaluation, procurement or deployment of nuclear armed interceptors of a missile defense system. 
  • $519 million in multi-year funds for  Cooperative Threat Reduction for the elimination and secure transportation/ storage of nuclear, chemical and other weapons; to prevent the proliferation of weapons, weapons components, and weapon-related technologies, etc.
  • RDT&E New Starts Justification – Funds appropriated under ‘‘Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense-Wide’’ for any new start advanced concept technology demonstration project or joint capability demonstration project may only be obligated 45 days after a report, including a description of the project, the planned acquisition and transition strategy and its estimated annual and total cost, has been provided in writing to the congressional defense committees. (The Secretary of Defense may waive this restriction on a case-by-case basis.)
  • Funds appropriated for research and technology for programs of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shall remain available until the end of fiscal year 2014.
Homeland Security
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency receives $35 million for the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System, $22 million shall be for capital improvements at the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center, and not less than $5 million directed to the modernization of automated systems. 
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives $112 million for the E-Verify Program. 
  • DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, Infrastructure Protection and Information Security receives $1.1 billion, with $328 million slated for Network Security Deployment and $218 million for Federal Network Security to establish and sustain essential cybersecurity activities, including procurement and operations of continuous monitoring and diagnostics systems and intrusion detection systems for civilian federal computer networks. $213 million (40%) of the combined $546 million is tagged as multi-year funding through FY 2014.
On to the Senate
According to recent media reports, the Senate leadership will go along with the House leadership’s decision to set fiscal 2013 spending at levels reflecting the $85 billion in spending cuts through sequestration. Time will tell whether anyone in the Senate will seek to shift money for agencies within the top-line spending number specified by sequestration.  Top agencies on the Senate list to receive similar funding flexibilities include Homeland Security, Justice, State and Transportation, according to reports.
If enacted, H.R. 933’s funding of the DoD would put dollars behind the priorities and policies outlined in the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act signed in January. For more details on the acquisition and IT implications of the Defense Authorization bill