House committee unveils $575 billion defense appropriations bill

A draft defense appropriations bill released Tuesday evening in the House would provide war funding only through April 2017, a tactic that has drawn opposition from Democrats and the Pentagon.

Still, Republicans say using the war funding for base requirements allows for increased training, facility repairs and new equipment that would make for a stronger military.

“In an increasingly dangerous and rapidly changing world, we must guarantee that our military and intelligence community have the capability to defeat barbaric Islamic terror groups and deter aggressor-nations, like Russia, Iran, China and North Korea,” defense appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a written statement.

“This bill recognizes the critical need for increased funding for more training, readiness and equipment and provides for military families. And our heightened oversight ensures that every dollar counts.”

The bill appropriates $575.7 for the Defense Department. That breaks down to $517.1 for the base requirements and $58.6 billion for a war fund, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

But $15.7 of the OCO money would be used for base requirements such as readiness, infrastructure and modernization.

That means the bill would follow the lead of the House’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and only provide war funding through April 2017. The idea is to have the next president request supplemental funding when he or she takes office.

Democrats decried that the tactic when it was introduced in the House Armed Services Committee, saying it could potentially leave troops deployed overseas without the money they need to continue fighting.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said using the OCO funds for base requirements violates last year’s Bipartisan Budget Act and overshadows the other positive aspects of the defense appropriations bill.

“The majority’s failure to provide a full year of funding for thousands of men and women serving in dangerous places around the world is astoundingly irresponsible,” she said in a statement. “By shifting funding away from Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the majority would create a cliff just a few months into 2017, forcing the new president to request supplemental funds to pay our troops within weeks after taking office.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, too, has slammed the move as dangerous for troops.

The bill would also provide $3 billion more than requested by the administration for end strength. That would allow for the addition of 28,715 active forces and 25,000 selected reserve forces above the requested levels.

The bill would also fund a pay raise for service members of 2.1 percent, higher than the administration’s requested 1.6 percent raise.

Other funding includes $209.2 billion for operations and maintenance, $70.8 billion for research and development, and $120.8 billion for procurement.

The defense appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to markup the bill in closed session Wednesday evening.

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