The 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, passed by the House Appropriations Committee April 22, would also under-fund the construction of VA hospitals and military facilities.
The cuts stem from the automatic budget caps known as sequestration, which amounts to large cuts to both civilian and military programs. Donovan wrote in the letter that while the legislation includes some additional funding in the form of a separate account not subject to the caps, sequestration would still damage agency programs and undermine long-term programs.
"Sequestration was never intended to take effect: rather, it was supposed to threaten such drastic cuts to both defense and non-defense funding that policymakers would be motivated to come to the table and reduce the deficit through smart, balanced reforms," Donovan wrote. "That is why the President has been clear that he is not willing to lock in sequestration going forward, nor will he accept fixes to defense without also fixing non-defense."
The legislation provides $76.6 billion in discretionary funding – about $4.6 billion above fiscal 2015 levels – but below the funding requested in President Obama's budget.
The legislation now awaits the full House. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bipartisan legislation supports the military, veterans and construction of new facilities.
""This is a balanced, thorough bill that will help improve the quality of life for our brave service men and women on active duty, address the current and future needs of our veterans, and tackle the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs," Rogers said. "This legislation also contains various strong oversight measures to help right the ship at the VA – ensuring that this Department is able to provide our nation's veterans with the high quality of care that they so richly deserve for their service."