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in each of 15 functional categories. The act specifies that Congress shall adopt a first budget resolution by May 15.
During this period the authorizing committees are supposed to review the program details of the annual budget request and report bills and resolutions authorizing new budget authority. The spending projections contained in those bills are supposed to aim at the targets adopted in the First Concurrent Resolution, though the authorizations themselves are not constrained by the budget act. During the summer the Congress is supposed to act on those bills. By September 15, Congress shall adopt a Second Concurrent Resolution which sets binding spending targets in each of the categories. Those binding targets then constrain the appropriations bills, all of which are supposed to be adopted by October 1.
In theory, the budget process is straightforward. Its operation in practice, however, has been less orderly. For all practical purposes, the First Concurrent Resolution has become the key binding resolution. Congress has concluded that key spending compromises must be set early in the process and cannot practically be reopened a second time near the end of the session. And while the budget act does not constrain authorization bills to meet spending targets contained in the budget resolutions, the practical political pressures of a recently adopted budget resolution on the authorization bills have become overwhelming.
The new budget process has been a wrenching experience. Congress as an institution is designed to deal with complex public policy problems by breaking them into their constituent elements and reviewing them in standing committees with jurisdiction over those constituent elements. By contrast, the budget process is Congress's only act of comprehensive public policy integration. Unlike all other activities, the budget process requires the participation of all committees, and brings their areas of jurisdiction into a common legislative process and vehicle. As such, it has established an entirely new pattern of pressure and power in Congress. Committees now have to reconcile "affordability” concerns with the substantive merits of the issues under their exclusive jurisdiction.
These pressures are exacerbated in a period of substantial Federal deficits. Those deficits impose enormous pressures to limit spending increases in all areas, including defense. Indeed, during the past three years, substantial reductions in defense spending have been imposed through the pressures of the Federal budget process.
Aside from the change in congressional behavior which affects all committees, the budget process also creates a difficult situation for the Armed Services Committees. Determining budget priorities has become a major legislative struggle every spring. An agreement on spending priorities and the accompanying budget resolution embodying those priorities are not established until May at the earliest. Therefore, the authorizing committees must review the details of the annual budget submission without clear guidelines on the level of spending the Congress is likely ultimately to permit. In each of the last three years, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported a defense authorization bill that proved higher than the Senate was prepared to support, requiring a complex and disruptive process of adjusting the bill. This creates serious problems in establishing spending priorities in so complex an area as defense procurement, for example.
The frustrations with the budget process have galvanized members of the Congress to seek means to lessen its burdens. Senators and Representatives alike widely believe the process has become too time consuming and duplicative of the authorizing and appropriating functions.
4. Breakdown of Traditions in the Congress
A fourth key trend concerns the evolution of traditions within the Congress itself, characterized generally as a breakdown in the traditions that informally guide the work of the Congress. This breakdown results in a dilution and distribution of power in ways that impede efficient review and authorization of the defense budget. This breakdown in traditions has occurred in several ways.
First, the jurisdictions of the various committees, and especially the authorizing and appropriating committees, have become blurred. Increasingly, authorizing committees are constraining appropriations, while the appropriating committees are including substantive legislative provisions in appropriation bills. The authorizing and appropriating procedures are becoming competitive rather than complementary.
This jurisdictional blurring between committees also includes expanded efforts by other authorizing committees to review defense issues. Senator John Tower, former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, addressed the problem of overlapping committee jurisdiction in his testimony before the Temporary Select Committee on Committees on August 2, 1984:
If we look at the area of national security, most committees in the Senate have an involvement with some aspect of the subject. The involvement of the Armed Services, Appropriations and Budget Committees is obvious. The Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over arms control, foreign aid, security assistance, war powers, and many aspects involving the use of military force outside the United States. The Small Business Committee injects itself in the breadth of the procurement process on the basis that it is concerned about small business opportunities to participate in defense contracting. The Veterans Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over a series of benefits available to those who have previously served in the armed forces, though this benefit package may have an impact on military recruitment and retention. The Governmental Affairs Committee asserts a claim, which I strongly dispute, that it has primary jurisdiction over procurement policy, including procurement policy in the Department of Defense. The Banking Committee has jurisdiction over the Cost Accounting Standards Board which sets the fundamental ground rules for the manner in which defense contracts are paid. That committee also has jurisdiction over the Defense Production Act, which is a critical legislative tool for ensuring an adequate defense industrial base. The Banking Committee also has jurisdiction over the Export Administration Act, which is the primary legislative tool for stopping transfer of militarily sensitive technologies. The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over NASA, which plays an integral role in providing access to space for the Department of Defense. The Commerce Committee also has jurisdiction over the Merchant Marine, which has an important national defense function, as we learned in the Falklands War. The Intelligence Committee has primary jurisdiction over the gathering of intelligence though that is inextricably linked to military posture. This is simply an illustrative list of the extent to which aspects of national security are divided among a huge number of standing committees. I might add that in the House the situation is even worse, in that the House Energy committee has shared jurisdiction with respect
to the Department of Energy nuclear weapons program. Second, the proliferation of committees and subcommittees in the Congress is diluting the time and attention any individual Senator can devote to key issues. The Temporary Select Committee on Committees highlighted this problem in its concluding report:
A recurring theme in the Select Committee hearings was the proliferation of committees, subcommittees and assignments and the resulting conflicting demands on senators' time and attention. . . . When senators acquire additional committee and subcommittee commitments, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to attend all of the meetings scheduled for each of their panels. This situation frustrates not only each individual senator, but the chairmen of committees when they try to
muster a quorum to conduct business. (pages 6-7) The number of committees and subcommittees has fluctuated significantly. In the 1950's, senators typically had nine committee or subcommittee obligations. The early 1970's witnessed the largest growth in the number of committee and subcommittee assignments for members of the Senate, with the average senator serving on 15 panels. This has been reduced in recent years. The average senator in the 98th Congress served on 11 committees or subcommittees. This is still a substantial commitment of time which not only limits the time Senators can devote to any single area, but has compounded the problems of scheduling in the Senate as well.
Third, new cross-cutting organizations in Congress have entered the defense debate. Recent cross-cutting organizations include the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, the Military Reform Caucus, the Senate Drug Enforcement Caucus, in addition to longstanding partisan organizations. Most of these organizations reserve their input to the defense budget or oversight process until the authorization and appropriation bills reach the floor of the House or Senate. There these organizations sponsor a legislative agenda through amendments which has contributed to the increase in time required to adopt the annual defense authorization and appropriation bills.
Fourth, during the past twenty years, there has been a trend toward weakened congressional leadership and the committee system in general. The Congress is a unique institution in that it does not practically have the ability to control admission of its own membership. Consequently, it has had to develop alternative methods for controlling its members. Traditionally those methods involved positive and negative incentives controlled by the part and
committee leaders. The structure of control revolved around committees and party organizations because they controlled resources.
While committees and leadership organizations still wield great power because of their procedural prerogatives, their dominant control over resources has been diluted. In 1947 each member of the House of Representatives had a staff of three. Today they may have as many as 18. In 1965 the average Senator had a staff of six. In 1985 the average senator has 40 employees. Members of Congress are less dependent on the party and committee leadership because they have at their personal disposal greater resources to deal with issues directly. The large number of organizations attempting to influence the Congress on defense and other issues provides additional de facto resources for members. Larger personal staffs and the availability of help from organizations outside of Congress mean that members are less dependent on committees and leadership organizations for information and direction, and hence are more willing to depart from the positions taken by those leadership organizations on individual issues. D. PROBLEM AREAS AND CAUSES
This section discusses five primary problem areas in the current congressional execution of its responsibilities for review and oversight of defense policies and programs. These problem areas reflect the consequences of the key trends noted above. 1. FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS WITH CONGRESS THAT AFFECT DEFENSE
OVERSIGHT Members of Congress are increasingly preoccupied with what one senator called "the deteriorations of this institution." Fundamental factors changing the way the Congress operates in general are beginning to affect the way Congress oversees the Department of De fense in particular. These fundamental problems create difficulties, not just for the Department of Defense, but for the entire Executive branch. Two fundamental problems were identified for purposes of this study.
a. Hegemony of the Budget Process
The budget process has come to dominate the life of the Congress. During the last four years, the budget process has overwhelmed the remainder of the legislative agenda. Senator Nunn gave primary emphasis to this problem in his testimony before the Temporary Select Committee on Committees in August 1984:
No one can deny that the 1974 Budget Act, which many of us worked on, provided, for the first time, the ability to spotlight the federal budget and to attempt to provide broad guide lines on overall consolidated spending. But the time and workload of the Senate—and of its Committees—are being dominat
ed and devoured by this task alone. The hegemony of the budget process over the rest of the legislative agenda occurs in several ways. First, there just is not sufficient time for Congress to adopt a budget, authorization bills, and appropriations bills before the start of a fiscal year. Congress is trying to fit too many activities into too little time. Any delay in one step creates a domino effect later in the year. The budget resolution is taking longer to adopt (reflecting the lack of consensus in the country on national priorities). This delays consideration of the authorization bills, which in turn delays consideration of appropriations bills and forces Congress to resort to continuing resolutions for spending measures. Since 1960 Congress has never started a fiscal year with all appropriation bills passed. However, the problem has deteriorated markedly in the last several years. Congress fails to meet its deadlines because it has too much to do, and the newcomer in the system—the budget process-is increasingly taking too much of the precious legislative time of Congress.
Second, the authorizing committees are caught in a pinch between the budget process and the appropriations process. Authorizing committees cannot effectively proceed to the floor with major authorizations until a budget has been adopted. This is taking longer each year, stretching well into June. On the other end, the last month of the fiscal year must be devoted to consideration of the appropriations bills. Consequently, all authorization bills are increasingly pinched into six to eight weeks in the summer. The budget process was not designed to pinch off the authorizing committees, but that has been the outcome.
Third, because the budget process is the first stage in the threestage process, policy decisions are increasingly being brought forward into that stage. An extended defense debate occurred this year as in the past during the budget debate in the Senate. The most far reaching decision made by the Senate as a whole on the fiscal year 1986 defense budget-its decision to freeze defense spending in real terms for Fiscal Year 1986-occurred during the budget debate, not during debate on the authorization bill or the appropriations bill.
This predominance of the budget process is likely to continue so long as the country continues to have massive budget deficits. The challenge is to find less disruptive budget procedures.
b. Duplicative Committee Reviews and Blurred Jurisdictions
The new budget process added a third cycle to the authorizing and appropriating cycles. The three stages are supposed to be complementary. But increasingly they have become redundant and competitive. The Georgetown University CSIS Defense Organization Project highlighted this problem in its final report Toward a More Effective Defense:
Redundancy in the congressional review process seriously aggravates the oversight problem. Each chamber reviews the defense budget at least three times annually. In each chamber, a separate committee controls each of the three annual reviews. At the same time the differentiation among functions, which once clearly distinguished the committees, has become blurred. The armed services committees in both chambers have expanded their authorization functions to encompass nearly the entire defense budget. At the same time, the appropriating committees increasingly apportion funds without regard to authorizations. Moreover, the question of how budgeting committees can rationally establish overall budgetary levels without delving into the detailed questions traditionally considered by authoriz