Processes matter with funding

It has been reported that $3.6 billion from Congressionally authorized and appropriated military construction funds will be redirected for the repair/replacement projects and new construction for US-Mexico border walls.

When I was in the Pentagon in the mid 1980s serving as a Program Element Monitor (PEM) for weapons development and procurement programs, one of my jobs was to prepare those programs' annual funding estimates. This included briefing several different AF and OSD panels which would evaluate each program’s submittal, making funding adjustments based on higher level direction and decisions. Once the funding packages were finalized for each Service at the OSD level, those packages would be submitted to Congress in January/February for its review and funding approval for that fiscal year’s military budget.

After Congress agreed and voted to approve that year’s military budget, it was sent to the president for signature. And after presidential signature, the President’s Budget for each Service was set for that fiscal year, beginning 1 October.

But, there is a process for changing how the funds of that fiscal year’s President’s Budget are actually spent. Let’s say an AF program needed to move some money from its production funding line to the research and development funding line. The PEM puts a package together identifying how much money needs to be moved and justifies the need for the change. This change request is coordinated through the Pentagon and formally submitted to each of the four Congressional committees associated with providing funds for military programs. Those committees are: House Armed Services Committee, House Appropriation Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senate Appropriation Committee.

All four committees must approve the funding change request or the monies must be spent as approved in that fiscal year’s President’s Budget. The committees can approve the request in two ways: send a formal letter to the AF giving the OK or do nothing for 45 days (called tacit approval). To disapprove the request, only one committee need send a formal letter to the AF denying the change.

I would like to know if this process was followed by the AF in moving funds appropriated for military construction for border wall construction. And if not, why Congress is not formally objecting to the Department of Defense using funds for a project for which it did not formally approve.

Robert Bachelor, Valparaiso