WASHINGTON — A measure intended to delay the Defense Information Systems Agency’s proposed elimination was added to the House’s annual defense spending bill Tuesday.
But will it work? That’s complicated.
Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., said his amendment to the proposed fiscal 2019 defense appropriations bill would bar the Pentagon from spending money to draft plans to transfer DISA’s functions elsewhere in the Defense Department.
The amendment passed the House by voice vote, while the bill itself is expected to come to a vote in the House on Wednesday night.
Through the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has targeted DISA for elimination in a larger search for efficiencies militarywide. U.S. Cyber Command would absorb DISA by January 2021, under his plan.
In a floor speech Tuesday, Brown claimed his amendment “prevents from executing this change.” The idea is to push the timeline back for long enough so that a different Congress might re-address the issue.
However, a Republican aide to the House Armed Services Committee said the amendment does not do what Brown intends it to do. That’s because its language mentions the transfer and not any study.
“We didn’t oppose it because it doesn’t do anything,” the aide said. “There isn’t any [proposed] funding to impact DISA reorganization until 2021.“
DISA oversees the operation of DoD networks and IT, as well as significant parts of federal communications, mobility, satellite communications and cloud services.
The agency has a total budget of nearly $10 billion and more than 5,000 employees and 7,500 contractors. Officials at the agency have repeatedly declined to discuss a possible closure, saying they do not comment on pending legislation.
Brown, in his speech, cited the White House’s opposition, from a May 22 statement of administration policy on the House NDAA.
Then, the Office of Management and Budget said, “This action would increase the cost of acquiring information technology, weaken the Department’s ability to secure its cyber networks, and inhibit DISA’s mission to provide seamless communication to warfighters and senior leaders.”
The entire matter is not yet settled, as neither the House appropriations nor authorization bill is law.
The House appropriations bill, which is expected to pass, must still be reconciled with its eventual Senate counterpart, which has yet to receive floor consideration.
Negotiations to reconcile the House- and Senate-passed NDAAs are expected to begin in July.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.