Budget deal likely to save 155th

Published 6:22 pm Saturday, October 31, 2015

Staff report

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, has announced the two-year budget agreement approved by the Senate is the first important step toward saving the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team.

Cochran voted for the legislation (HR.1314), which reforms and trims government programs in order to alter defense and nondefense sequestration budget cuts for FY2016 and FY2017. 

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Congress has a Dec. 11 deadline to complete the FY 2016 appropriations process in accordance with the budget agreement in order to avoid a government shutdown.  The Senate approved the measure, 64-35, early Friday morning.

“Approval of this budget agreement is our signal to finish the 2016 budget and appropriations cycle. The Appropriations Committee will continue its work to develop legislation that responsibly meets the nation’s national security and domestic requirements by the Dec. 11 deadline,” Cochran said.  “There are many aspects of this imperfect agreement that can be criticized. It will, however, allow us to fulfill our basic responsibility to provide for the defense of our nation. It does not raise taxes and it begins to address much-needed reforms to the entitlement programs that are at the root of our budget deficits.”

Cochran said the measure, which is offset, should help ensure greater certainty for programs and missions in Mississippi that have been potential targets under sequestration-triggered cuts to defense and other accounts.

For example, the budget agreement represents an important first step toward saving the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, which has been one of two armored brigade combat teams that have been identified for divestment as part of Army National Guard plans to meet sequestration-level budget restrictions.

“A great deal of investment has been placed into making the 155th Brigade Combat Team one of the most-technologically advanced units in the Army. The budget agreement is our best opportunity to avoid force reductions that threaten its future,” said Cochran, who also chairs the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Without the budget agreement, the Army National Guard would remain under a total force reduction that would have required it to draw down its level of soldiers from 355,000 in 2015 to an estimated 315,000.

The House of Representatives approved HR.1314 on Wednesday.  With Senate approval, the measure will now be referred to the White House.