Senators tout $550B defense bill as win for home-state projects

Lawmakers were quick to praise Senate appropriators’ $550 billion defense spending bill, which rejected many proposed Pentagon cost-cutting measures and protected programs in their home districts.

The measure, which includes $489.6 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $59.7 billion for war operations, funds many controversial programs that the Obama administration had sought to scale back.

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But many lawmakers said the budget measure would help boost job growth and spending in military communities at home.

“The defense appropriations bill we advanced will both support our service men and women while making targeted investments in New Hampshire jobs and our national defense,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a statement Friday. 

She cited the bill’s funding for New Hampshire’s National Guard program, the development of the KC-46A tanker and Virginia-class submarines. 

“The continued investment in the KC-46A tanker as well as the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines are of particular importance for local jobs and our national security, and I hope the full Senate can pass this bipartisan legislation quickly,” she added.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he was “very pleased” with the committee’s $1.51 billion funding for the Littoral Combat Ship program, another controversial program plagued by performance and cost issues.

“This is a great ship and a key part of the Navy’s future. I have advocated for it for many years. We must keep it on-track,” he said. 

He also praised funding for the Joint High Speed Vessel program, which is being built by Austal, a company with a shipyard in Alabama. 

“I am very pleased that Senator Shelby and his Appropriations Committee colleagues have kept these programs funded and on-track in these difficult financial times,” Sessions said. 

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) also praised the bill for including funding for “top defense priorities for Virginia."

“This is a real win for Virginia, our service men and women, military veterans and their families,” Warner said.

“I’m particularly proud of the way Virginia’s bipartisan congressional delegation in the House and Senate worked together to ensure our defense priorities are funded.” 

The bill includes $848 million to refuel and overhaul the Norfolk-based carrier USS George Washington, which the Pentagon had sought to deactivate, and $853 million for development of the Ohio class submarine replacement program, partially constructed in Newport News, Va. 

“Together with the House Appropriations Committee and the House and Senate Armed Services committees, all four key congressional committees have now signaled clear support for funding the GW,” said Kaine. 

The Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition also thanked the committee "on behalf of the more than 2,000 businesses from 43 states that contribute parts, services and support to the production and maintenance of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers."

The defense spending bill, approved by the Senate panel on Thursday, is the last of four bills that will determine next year’s Pentagon spending levels. It is unclear when the full Senate will vote on the Appropriations measure or the Armed Services Committee’s defense authorization bill.

Critics of the Pentagon’s budget, though, have questioned the value of many programs supported by the bill.

"The military is not a jobs program," said former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

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