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Celebrate the 2019 defense budget but be wary

I’ve heard defense officials talk about how they never plan to get their funding until December or January. Operating under a continuing resolution is a fact of life, but not this year.

Congress has passed and the president has signed appropriations bills that cover nearly three-quarters of government spending.

Most notably, the Defense Department has a budget in place to start fiscal 2019 on Oct. 1. I think it has been at least a decade since that has happened. The Hill newspaper is reporting that 1996 was the last time so many appropriations bills passed this early.

Other funding has been approved for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments. Spending also has been approved for Veterans Affairs, Energy and legislative branch agencies.

But the Homeland Security Department is missing from that list. The fight for border wall funding has been pushed to after the November elections. It is hard to predict what a lame duck session of Congress will do. Plus, you can expect some fury from the White House if the GOP loses the House, and there will be an outright explosion if the GOP also loses the Senate.

But that is a fight for another day. Today let’s bask in the certainty of 2019.

Total defense spending is pegged at $717 billion, which is higher than what President Trump requested, but within the parameters of the budget deal Congress and the president worked out in the spring.

I won’t go into a detailed analysis of the budget but it looks fiscal 2019 should be a very good year. With the budget already in place, agency spending should even out. Planning should be better. The mad rush at the end of the fiscal year should be mitigated, but it won’t go away.

One of the reasons I have a lot of “shoulds” in that paragraph is because we don’t know what comes next.

The mid-term elections will have an impact. The divisiveness we see in the process is unlikely to lessen. So while 2019 might be smooth sailing there are plenty of risks ahead.

And the big bugaboo is the growing debt and deficit. Those chickens will have to come home to roost. If not in 2020, then sometime soon after.

But for now, look for a more manageable 2019. Grab the opportunities that you can. But look ahead and prepare.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 28, 2018 at 9:22 AM


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