Authorization Committees - Congress
DAU GLOSSARY DEFINITION
The standing committees of Congress that have legislative authority, authorize programs, and conduct oversight over agency programs. The primary authorizers for DoD are the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC).
Authorization (Authorizing Legislation). Basic substantive legislation enacted by the Congress which sets up or continues the legal operation of a Federal program or agency either indefinitely or for a specific period of time or sanctions a particular type of obligation or expenditure within a program. Such legislation is normally a prerequisite for subsequent appropriations or other kinds of budget authority to be contained in appropriation acts. It may limit the amount of budget authority to be provided subsequently or may authorize the appropriation of “such sums as may be necessary.”
(Source: http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/fmr/current/02a/Volume_02a.pdf) Chapter 1, Section 010107.B.6
Authorization Bill. Legislation that establishes or continues the legal operation of a program or agency for a period of time; sanctions a particular type of obligation or expenditure; limits the amount of budget authority provided; or authorize the appropriation of funds as necessary. Under House and Senate rules, the appropriation for a program or agency may not be considered until the authorization has been considered.
The second step in the Congressional Enactment process – authorization – is a creation of Congress rather than Constitutionally required. Originally appearing in 1946, it is a process that has evolved over time, initially to streamline the overburdened Appropriations Committees, and later and perhaps more importantly, to allow more members to become involved in the review of the President’s Budget (PB).
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearings begin after the President's State of the Union Message. The initial "posture" hearings are conducted with the most senior members of the executive branch, DoD and the Services discussing and defending the programs in the PB. Follow-on hearings will go on for several months, delving into a variety of issues concerning particularly political or sensitive aspects of the budget.
The HASC will normally be the first to complete its review of the budget. After mark-up sessions in which committee members (and staffers) conduct a line-by-line review of the PB, the HASC and SASC will each send their own version of the Authorization Bill to the floor of their respective chambers. On the floor, the proposed bill will be debated, possibly amended and finally approved. Assuming there are differences between the House and Senate versions (which is normal), a conference will be convened to discuss and resolve those differences. After any differences have been resolved and the bill passed in identical form by both the full House and full Senate, it becomes an Act and is sent to the President for signature to become law.
Defense budget authority, procurement quantities for major weapon systems, end strength and military construction usually require annual authorization. The Defense Authorization Act in effect allows programs to exist and recommends funding levels. House and Senate rules do not permit Congress to appropriate funds for any program or activity that has not been authorized. Moreover, funds should not be appropriated for a program or activity in excess of the recommended funding level in the Authorization Act. (Historically, though, there have been a few exceptions to these rules.)