By Carlo Muñoz - 07/31/12 04:54 PM EDT
The $604.5 billion that Senate appropriators approved for DOD operations and ongoing combat missions in Afghanistan mirrors the department's $604.6 billion request sent to Capitol Hill in February.
However, the appropriations bill is much smaller than the $634 billion spending blueprint Senate Armed Services Committee members signed off on July 2, which included $543 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Defense and nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy and $89 billion in funding for Afghanistan.
Senate appropriators fully funded the DOD's request for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as well as the Army's fleet of attack helicopters.
Funds were also included in the Senate subcommittee mark to replace Marine Corps Ospreys lost in combat operations in Afghanistan, according to a summary of the subcommittee's bill.
The bill also set aside $21 million for the Air Force's work to fix problems in the oxygen delivery systems aboard the service's F-22 Raptor jets.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently lifted flight regulations on the Raptor fleet, which was grounded due to those oxygen system problems.
On the unmanned side, Senators fully financed the department's request to bolster its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-8 Fire Scout aerial drones. It also set aside millions for the Army's fledgling Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (EMARSS), according to the Senate summary.
The Navy will get advance procurement dollars to begin construction of an additional Virginia-class submarine and an amphibious ship, according to the Senate subpanel's mark. The sea service will also receive money to keep seven cruisers and two amphibious ships in the fleet.
The Navy had requested to retire those ships to help finance its overall future shipbuilding plan.
Federal funding will also be set aside to finance one more Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and the construction of a new "afloat forward staging base."
The base, which is a converted mobile landing platform ship, is designed to be an operational hub for U.S. special operations forces to conduct missions without setting up bases in foreign countries.
A similar ship is already on station in the Persian Gulf.
On the operational side, Senate appropriators provided $5.1 billion to assist Afghanistan's nascent security forces and a total of $550 million for reconstruction programs in Afghanistan.
Another $50 million was approved for increased intelligence and surveillance operation in support of U.S. efforts to hunt down Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony in Central Africa.
But senators did impose some minor cuts to various service initiatives, to offset the line item increases approved in the subcommittee's defense bill.
The panel approved a "strategic pause" to all Air Force-led force structure adjustments and cut funds for a number of Army communication programs, including the Joint Tactical Radio program.
The Army's MQ-1 Grey Eagle unmanned drone program was also cut down to 15 aircraft "in order to address issues found in test, and slows upgrades to RQ-7 Shadow systems due to excessive funding carryover."