House panel unveils details of $717B defense policy bill

House panel unveils details of $717B defense policy bill
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The House Armed Services Committee on Friday unveiled details of its $717 billion defense policy bill.

Citing a “crisis point,” including 25 service members killed in military aviation accidents this spring, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes increases in funding for training, maintenance and new equipment aimed at helping to restore readiness.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE’s (R-Texas) “proposal complies with the bipartisan budget agreement and supports a base budget of $639.1 billion, including significant increases for readiness recovery,” a summary released by the committee said.

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The bill would authorize $616.7 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, $22.1 billion for the Department of Energy’s defense programs and $300 million for other defense-related base budget items.

It would also authorize $69 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

Mandatory spending of $8.9 billion brings the NDAA’s total to $717 billion.

The bill goes beyond the administration’s budget request for funding for flying hours by $24.2 million.

“By allowing more time in the air, this increase will help reverse the tragic trend of military aviation accidents,” the summary said.

The extra focus on training comes despite the heads of the Navy and Marine Corps on Wednesday saying they could not connect a lack of military funding over the years to a string of recent aviation incidents, pointing to a lack of information.

The proposal also has $83 million more than the administration’s request for other training operations.

The bill matches the request for $2.8 billion to buy spare parts for aircraft for the Navy, Marines and Air Force and has an extra $100 million for spare parts for the F-35 fighter jet.

The bill would authorize the purchase of 77 F-35s and follow the seapower subcommittee’s recommendation for one more aircraft carrier and two more littoral combat ships than requested by the administration, among other equipment purchases.

As usual, the bill would not authorize a new round of base closures. But it would give the Pentagon authority, with the consent of state and local officials, to close small installations “where the secretary of Defense can do so affordably.”

“The chairman’s proposal recognizes that there are small installations around the country that have outlasted their purpose and their continued operation places an undue burden on the taxpayers and on the local community,” the summary said.

The bill also includes Thornberry’s proposal to find 25 percent in cuts from the Pentagon's support agencies, which includes human resources, procurement, information and auditing agencies.

The original proposal included the elimination of seven of the agencies. The version included in the bill would specifically eliminate the Washington Headquarters Services, a committee staffer told reporters at a background briefing. The statutory requirement for the Test Resource Management Center would also be eliminated, but the center would not have to be shut down, the staffer said.

Rather than eliminating other agencies, the Defense secretary and the Pentagon's chief management officer will have to look at each agency and "justify their missions and justify how they contribute to the joint force's effectiveness," the staffer said. 

Updated at 2:31 p.m.