House Appropriations panel pushes back against Pentagon spending cuts

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is the latest congressional panel to tell the Pentagon it can’t retire one variant of the Global Hawk drone and is pushing back against cuts to the Air National Guard.

The committee’s bill text, released Monday, included $278 million to maintain funding for the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 drones, which the Pentagon had killed in its 2013 budget request.

The Appropriations panel has allocated $519.2 billion in base defense spending in its legislation, an increase of $3.1 billion above the president’s request. The bill includes $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO), the budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is the same amount as the administration’s budget.

The House committee’s spending level is higher than the top line approved by the Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee, setting up a showdown for the two bills in conference.

The Senate panel approved a base budget of $511.1 billion and an OCO budget of $93.3 billion, for a total budget that’s $3.5 billion below the House’s legislation.

The Senate panel shifted an extra $4.9 billion into the war budget from the base budget in order to get under the budget caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Both the president’s budget and the House Appropriations budget are higher than the caps.

“I was very disappointed that House Republicans walked away from the bipartisan agreement reached to establish a discretionary spending cap of $1.047 trillion for fiscal year 2013 and instead opted to create a new number, $19 billion below what we agreed to,” House Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

In the full House appropriations bill, which has top-line numbers based on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanLaura Ingraham: George Will is ‘sad and petty’ for urging votes against GOP Seth Rogen: I told Paul Ryan I hate his policies in front of his kids George Will: Vote against GOP in midterms MORE’s (R-Wis.) budget, non-defense discretionary spending is cut while defense is boosted.

“I believe that the position of House Republicans is unsustainable and that by the end of the process we will be back to the agreed upon allocation of $1.047 trillion with their breach of trust having only served to slow the process down,” Dicks said.

The House Appropriations Committee is following the same tack as the House Armed Services Committee’s authorization bill, which is $3.7 billion higher than the president’s defense budget and also blocks the retirement of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk Block 30 drone.

The Appropriations Defense subcommittee will mark up its authorization bill in a closed-door session on Tuesday, and the Armed Service panel will mark its bill publicly on Wednesday.

The House Appropriations panel also pushes back against proposed cuts to the Air National Guard. The appropriations bill included $850 million to “pause” retirements and reassignments of Guard and Reserve aircraft until Congress and the Government Accountability Office conduct cost-benefit analyses of the Air Force’s proposals.

“This subcommittee has worked tirelessly to mitigate risks associated with budget shortfalls in areas such as shipbuilding, force structure, and weapons and facility maintenance,” subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said in a statement.

The bill also includes $948 million in funding for Israeli defense programs, including $680 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system, for which Congress has been a big proponent.

The Pentagon included its cuts to the Global Hawk drone and the Air Guard in its 2013 budget as part of a plan to reduce its budget by $487 billion over the next decade. Republicans in Congress have been critical of the cuts digging too deep, vowing to reverse some of them.

The budget bills winding their way through Congress do not take into account the potential for an additional $500 billion in automatic cuts through sequestration, which are scheduled to take effect in January 2013.

The House Appropriations Committee also released its military construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) budget Monday, which was funded at $71.7 billion, the same amount as the 2012 budget.

The majority of the bill’s spending goes toward VA medical services, which totals $41.4 billion. The bill also includes $10.6 billion for military construction projects, a drop of $2.4 billion from last year’s level.

—This story was updated at 11:43 a.m.