PRESIDENT SIGNS VA, LEG BRANCH APPROPS: DEFENSE SPENDING BILL EDGES CLOSER TO PASSAGE, WITH NEW OTA PROVISIONS
President Trump has signed the FY’19 appropriations bills funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch activities, as well as measures funding military construction and energy and water programs. As such, at least a portion of the government will not start FY’19 under a Continuing Resolution. Indeed, most of the government may start FY’19 with official appropriations. The Senate approved FY’19 appropriations bills for the Departments of Defense, Labor, HHS, and Education before leaving town last week. The House is expected to follow suit this week. The Senate added new oversight and reporting language to the use of Other Transaction Authority in DOD to ensure that such projects are properly managed. DOD must report on all existing and planned OTA’s, with particular attention being paid to how follow-on work is handled. Similarly, GAO will now conduct a study on OTA use. No provisions in the bill really reign in the use of OTA’s, but it is clear that Congress wants to strike a balance between expedited acquisition and ensuring that all federal money is spent wisely. Back on the appropriations front, the House may take up another mini-bus bill to fund most other agencies, except the Department of Homeland Security, when it returns. If the third mini-bus is passed, almost all agencies will have dollars on time, if the President signs the bills. Congress has also passed a Continuing Resolution to keep any agency without regular appropriations operational through December 7th.